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North Korea’s Stolen Bitcoin Loot Move Is ‘Just Tip of the Iceberg’

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read

Bitcoin (BTC) has begun to flow out of the accounts that United States prosecutors said belong to North Korean hackers – but an observer in the South said that attempts to follow the money could result in disaster for firms, government bodies and financial services providers.

Source: Adobe/Алексей Струйский

Per blockchain tracker Whale Alert, BTC 12 was moved out of one of the 280 crypto wallets flagged by American prosecutors as belonging to what it alleges are North Korean hackers who have stolen cryptoassets from a range of international targets.

According to Newsis, America’s prosecutor-general alleges that North Korean hackers stole 11 types of crytoasset worth some USD 273,000 from an anonymous virtual currency exchange in July last year. It also said that in August 2019, the rogue state stole USD 2.47 million worth of tokens from a United States-based crypto exchange.

The media outlet said that the North is now trading its tokens on Chinese over-the-counter (OTC) trading platforms – with no shortage of takers in the Middle Kingdom.

Cho Du-hyun, a former business owner and a long-term North Korea observer based in South Korea, told,

“What we read about is likely the tip of the iceberg. And it figures that the North Koreans will turn to Chinese traders as they share the same political enemies and have a common cause, so to speak. But I’m not sure I would pay too much attention to reports about this – most of the trades will likely go completely undetected by the international community. Business between China and North Korea so often is.”

Gina Kim, a security specialist based in South Korea, also spoke to, warning that trying to hunt down stolen funds was a “thankless” task – and claimed that American and South Korean authorities would be better off focusing on defense. Especially as recent reports from the US Army claim the North has several thousand cyber operatives in the field – many of whom are allegedly working overseas in nations including China.

Kim said,

“What the North Koreans are doing with their hacked funds shouldn’t really be the issue here – plugging leaks should be. The recent Twitter hacks have shown just how easy it is to run a massive crypto scam by exploiting vulnerabilities at big tech companies. Crypto exchanges, banks, governments and the like would be better off making their systems hack-proof than fruitlessly chasing fistfuls of stolen crypto.”

Learn more:
How One Ethereum Developer Created a Dilemma For the Whole Cryptoverse
UN: North Korea Turns Talented Children into Cryptocurrency Hackers