North Korea May Have Netted $200 Million in Bitcoin Transactions, Says Former NSA Officer

North Korea May Have Netted $200 Million in Bitcoin Transactions, Says Former NSA Officer

Francisco Memoria
  • A former NSA officer claims North Korea could have made 11,000 BTC last year using a cyber army
  • The regime has been accused of being responsible for the WannaCry ransomware campaign, and for taking down South Korean exchange Youbit
  • The country denies all hacking accusations.

North Korean hackers may have netted the regime over $200 million worth of cryptocurrency transactions last year. The money could have been used to dilute the impact of international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missiles program

The regime’s potentially huge cryptocurrency revenue was revealed by Priscilla Moriuchi, a former NSA officer, during an interview with Radio Free Asia. Per the former US government employee, North Korea could have made an estimated 11,000 bitcoins through a cyber army.

If the regime sold the cryptocurrency during its mid-December peak of over $19,340, it could have made over $200 million. If, however, it failed to do so then, the value of its coins plummeted to about $77 million over one month later.

If North Korea is still holding on to its funds, they’re currently worth $128.5 million as one bitcoin is currently trading at $11,680, according to data from CryptoCompare. Per Moriuchi, who now works at cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, the funds were acquired through mining or hacking.

Speaking to Vox.com, she said:

“I would bet that these coins are being turned into something – currency or physical goods – that are supporting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme.”

Priscilla Moriuchi

North Korea has in the past been blamed for various cybercrimes. In December, the US government claimed the reclusive state was behind May’s WannaCry ransomware attack, that affected over 230,000 computers in 150 countries, but seemed to rake in little over $100,000

Moreover, researchers at FireEye linked North Korean hackers to six cyber attacks against South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges. One of these attacks forced Youbit to shut down after filing for bankruptcy.

According to The Telegraph, there’s evidence that suggests North Korean hacker cells have set up operational hubs in foreign locations. While the regime denies all hacking accusations, cybersecurity experts and defectors reportedly claim promising students are handpicked to join Bureau 121, North Korea’s cyberwarfare agency.

North Korea Already “Ensconsed” In Cryptocurrencies

As The Telegraph notes, terrorist financing and money laundering expert Loretta Napoleoni argued that Pyongyang is already “ensconsed” in cryptocurrencies as it is most likely using them to launder money.

In a book, she cites cybersecurity experts to claim cryptocurrencies make it “easier to trade in weapons, drugs, and other illicit goods.” Reportedly, North Korea even used cryptocurrencies to sell arms and buy oil from countries like Libya and Iran.

Taking all of this into account, Moriuchi believes the international community should tighten regulations being applied to cryptocurrency exchanges. She stated

“That helps create a paper trail we can use to identify North Korean accounts and how North Korea is moving these currencies.”

Priscilla Moriuchi

Analyst: ‘Vicious’ Cryptocurrency ‘Bear Trap’ Surges Have Resulted in ‘Deeper, Deeper, Losses’

Analyst: ‘Vicious’ Cryptocurrency ‘Bear Trap’ Surges Have Resulted in ‘Deeper, Deeper, Losses’
Omar Faridi

Russ Mould, the investment director at AJ Bell, one of the largest providers of internet-based trading platforms in the UK, recently remarked that the current cryptocurrency bear market is similar to those “we’ve seen before across a wide range of asset classes.”

Mould, an experienced capital markets analyst, told MarketWatch:

This brutal bear market [has seen a] succession of rallies [that] have tempted true believers and speculators alike to hold on, or even dive in again, only for those surges to become vicious bear traps, leaving holders of the cryptocurrency facing deeper and deeper losses.

BTC Price Just Above August 2017 Trading Range

Bitcoin (BTC), the flagship cryptocurrency, is currently trading at around $3,450 - down considerably from its all-time high of nearly $20,000 in December 2017. Going on to point out that BTC price is down over 80% from ATH, Mould observed that bitcoin’s present value stands just above what it was trading for in August 2017 “before the mania took hold.”

Bear Market Rallies “Dragging Investors Deeper Into The Mire”

Drawing comparisons to the Dot-com bubble, which many other analysts have now made, Mould warned that investors should be careful and exercise good judgement before making investments into speculative or emerging asset classes. Specifically, Mould cautioned against the typical short-lived bear market rallies. He gave the example of the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite which saw multiple rallies in the early 2000s.

However, the Nasdaq Composite never fully recovered until April 2015. During this period, there were “at least eight [rallies that] failed and dragged investors deeper into the mire before the benchmark bottomed in March 2003 after a top-to-bottom loss over 75%.” According to Mould:

Even if bitcoin is over the worst, it may be a long road for those who piled in near the top.

Tone Vays: Best Case Scenario Is $3,000 BTC Price Consolidation

On December 12th, well-known technical analyst Tone Vays released a video in which he noted that the next few months for BTC don’t look too good - based on his analysis of the cryptocurrency’s price movements. Vays made comparisons to how bitcoin’s bear market ended in 2015, and remarked that BTC price does not appear to have found a bottom or reversal.

Vays also said that bitcoin price movements in the past few months suggest there are better chances of a further downward momentum ahead, instead of a recovery. The best case scenario for BTC price, according to Vays, would be a few months of consolidation at the $3,000 mark as he believes bitcoin price could drop as low as $1,500. According to the YouTube commentator, this trend may continue until April next year, however, there are also chances that bitcoin may rally to the $5,000 price range and possibly higher toward the end of 2019.