North Korea-based cybercriminals have cast their attention on to individual cryptocurrency investors and away from larger exchanges, according to a report from the South China Morning Post.

Founder of cyber warfare research group IssueMakersLab, Simon Choi, has confirmed the growing change in tactics by cybercriminals from South Korea’s northern neighbor. This, after a step up to tighten security controls by high-value financial institutions and centralized crypto exchanges over past months. According to the Post:

“Direct attacks on exchanges have become harder, so hackers are thinking about alternatively going after individual users with weak security. They targeted staff at the exchanges, but now they are attacking cryptocurrency users directly. With the US, the UN and others imposing sanctions on the North Korean economy, North Korea is in a difficult position economically, and cryptography has come to be seen as a good opportunity.”

Hackers have now begun to infect individuals’ computers with infected email attachments as a means of stealing crypto assets. Once the computer is compromised, the hackers have free range access private files and keys. Kwon Seo-Chul, the CEO of Cuvepia, has discovered 30 such cases of individual cryptocurrency investors being targeted recently. He commented that there may be more just around the corner with all of the cited incidents occurring very recently, since April of this year.

One of the major problems appears to be that there is no way of reporting such attacks, most of which have seen seasoned cybercriminals targeting private South Korean investors. This is resulting in hackers becoming braver and less concerned about intervention from the authorities. Kwon explained that the victims were just “just simple wallet users investing in cryptocurrency” adding, “When cryptocurrency wallets are hacked, there is nowhere one can make complaints, so hackers are increasingly hacking into digital currency accounts.”

South Korea has frequently accused the Pyongyang government of state-backed cybercrime following a number of high profile incidents and a recent increase in North Korea’s cryptocurrency mining activity. NSA cybersecurity official Priscilla Moriuchi asserts:

“North Korea has pursued other avenues for obtaining cryptocurrencies as well, including mining of both Bitcoin and Monero, ransom paid in Bitcoin from the global WannaCry attack in May and even commissioning a cryptocurrency class for North Korean students in November.”

North Korea is currently on the South Korean Exchange giant Bithumb’s list of banned countries after Kim Jong-un’s Pyongyang regime has repeatedly been accused over a period of years of heists and hacks against cryptocurrency exchanges, banks, and multinational organizations in attempts to raise desperately needed hard cash for its failing economy.

 

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