Bitcoin has seen a 1,514 percent rise in value during 2017, trading at $963 in January 2017 and currently worth $14,968.43, according to Coindesk.com, on January 2, at 7.20pm GMT.
North Korea has been struggling under economic uncertainty after the United Nations unleashed a series of new sanctions to clamp down fears of World War 3, following ignored calls to end Pyongyang’s nuclear development programme.
Currency analysts have suggested North Korea could now be using cryptocurrency bitcoin to support its weapons development programme since cash flow to the country was cut off.
Bloomberg‘s Asia Technology editor Edwin Chan said bitcoin’s digital nature made the cryptocurrency “more easily laundered,” thus helping North Korea store hard cash to fuel its weapons programme.
Mr Chan said: “Cryptocurrencies are more easily laundered. And also the North Koreans are increasingly using third-party service systems to do the mining for them and the reason for doing that is because it’s an expensive process.
“North Koreans have been linked to attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges. We understand they do mining of their own but North Korea denies all such reports.
“However, Pyongyang needs high currency to fund its nuclear weapons development programme, allegedly.”
But cybersecurity expert Luke McNamara said his company had noticed hackers previously linked to espionage activities for the North Korean government take a sudden interest in bitcoin early in the year.
Mr McNamara said: “The fact that it has appreciated so much in value this year means that it’s attracting a lot of interest from various cybercriminals.
“We have noticed North Korean hackers actually pivot to start going after places like cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea.”
Officials in Seoul say they are keeping tabs on North Korea’s bitcoin-related activities, which analysts warn are being used to subvert international sanctions.
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has warned a “nuclear button is always on my desk” as he threatened the US during his New Year’s address in Pyongyang.
But he also appeared to extend an olive branch to neighbouring Seoul, suggesting Pyongyang could ultimately send a team to the Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in Pyeongchang in February 2018.
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