North Korea suspected in latest bitcoin heist, bankrupting Youbit exchange

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallagher)

When you’re developing intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons while under some of the harshest economic sanctions the world has seen, every bit—and every bitcoin—apparently helps.

North Korea has been implicated in both the WannaCry cryptographic worm and its bitcoin ransom demands as well as stealing about $ 81 million in traditional money through fraudulent funds transfers from a Bangladeshi bank. And now it appears that North Korean hackers are responsible for bringing down the Youbit cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea.

The Wall Street Journal reports that South Korean officials suspect North Korean hackers in the digital theft from Youbit on December 19, making it the latest victim in a string of bitcoin repository hacks and frauds over the last six years. Attackers made off with 17 percent of the exchange’s cryptocurrency assets, including an undisclosed amount of bitcoin. In the wake of the attack, Youbit has declared bankruptcy and is allowing customers to withdraw only 75 percent of their accounts; the remainder will be paid out after the company is liquidated.

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