North Korea is reportedly growing its Monero (XMR) mining operations in an attempt to bypass international sanctions using the privacy-centric cryptocurrency.

According to U.S.-based cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, network traffic for XMR mining that has originated from North Korean IP ranges increase “at least tenfold” since May 2019, which means the regime’s focus is now on mining Monero and not bitcoin (BTC).

Recorded Future’s report notes that the North Korean government is now eyeing XMR over a recent hard fork the privacy-centric cryptocurrency had, which saw it implement the ASIC-resistant RandomX proof-of-work algorithm. RandomX made it easier to mine Monero using conventional computers, which lowers the operating costs of a mining operation.

Moreover, for North Korea it means the government doesn’t have to import mining rigs from abroad. Monero’s transactions are anonymous ,which also means it’s easy for the regime to stop analysts from tracking their funds. It can also be used to bypass sanctions imposed on the country.

The report adds:

We assess that cryptocurrencies are a valuable tool for North Korea as an independent, loosely regulated source of revenue generation, but also as a means for moving and using illicitly obtained funds.

North Korea’s cryptocurrency mining activity has reportedly been obfuscated with proxy IP addresses, which means analysts weren’t able to determine how much XMR hashrate it controls.

It’s worth pointing out it’s also believed North Korean hackers were behind various high-profile cryptocurrency exchange heists. One well-known group believed to be working for the country’s government, the Lazarus Group, was found to be behind the DragonEx hack. The funds collected by these hackers are believed to be used to go towards North Korea’s weapons programs.

Monero itself has been a go-to cryptocurrency for criminals and hackers. As CryptoGlobe reported a group of Monero cryptojacking hackers called ‘Outlaw’ has been targeting businesses in the U.S. and Europe with bots that covertly mine XMR on victims’ devices.

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