North Korean Hackers May Have Stolen $530 Million From a Japanese Cryptocurrency Exchange

North Korean hackers may have been responsible for the largest cryptocurrency heist to date, Reuters reports.

Last month, hackers stole $530 million in virtual currency from Coincheck, one of Japan’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges. While the attackers have yet to be identified, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers that it’s a possibility that North Korea was behind the theft. People familiar with the briefing told Reuters that the intelligence agency did not provide specific evidence to confirm the suspicion.

The pariah state has previously targeted virtual coin markets to inject cash into its sanctions-crippled economy. Financial security experts have flagged the possibility that cryptocurrency, with its anonymity, loose regulations and ability to be converted into hard currency, could provide authoritarian regimes a route to circumvent sanctions and gain access to foreign currency and world markets.

“North Korea continuously seeks ways to bring in hard currency, and one way is to steal or demand payment in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency,” Tara O, an adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum CSIS, told the Korea Times.

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The hack in Japan sparked concern that the North Korean regime could be stepping up its cyberattacks.

The U.S. publicly blamed North Korea for the “WannaCry” ransomware attack that crippled hospitals, banks and companies in 2017.

Security firm FireEye said hackers linked to North Korea have stolen bitcoin from at least three South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges since May 2017.

South Korea has been encouraged to boost security measures and prepare to fend off increased attempts by North Korea to target more virtual currency exchanges.

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