Daily Management Review

Cybersecurity Firm Claims Cryptocurrency Monero Might Be Getting Funneled To North Korea University


In what is being viewed as evidence of North Korea attempting to devise new and innovative ways of infusing its economy, researchers of a cybersecurity company claimed of discovering evidence of a software that seemingly installs a code aimed at mining cryptocurrency and after the virtual currencies are mined, they are directed to a server in a North Korean university.
A cryptocurrency called Monero is mined n a host computer with the help of an application that was created on Dec. 24. Cybersecurity company AlienVault, which investigated the program said that Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang is where the mined coins are sent to. 
“Crypto-currencies may provide a financial lifeline to a country hit hard by sanctions, and as a result universities in Pyongyang have shown a clear interest in cryptocurrencies,” the California-based security firm said in a release. The software “may be the most recent product of their endeavours”, the firm added.
There was however a caveat that was added to the report by the firm which mentioned that there did not appear to be any connection with the wider internet of a North Korean server used in the code which could mean that the attachment of the server was aimed at tricking observers to believe that there is an North Korean connection. And it is not just North Korean students but foreign students and lecturers are also part of the Kim Il Sung University.
There was no response available from the Kim Il Sung University and the government officials of North Korea were not available for comments.
However, there are others who have signaled enhanced evidence of interest of North Korea in cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology blockchain.
“With economic sanctions in place, cryptocurrencies are currently the best way to earn foreign currency in North Korea’s situation. It is hard to trace and can be laundered several times,” said Mun Chong-hyun, chief analyst at South Korean cybersecurity firm ESTsecurity.
For people who consider secrecy of transactions to be of paramount interest consider Monero to be more alluring than bitcoin, say cryptocurrency watchers. According to coinmarketcap.com, this virtual currency is the 13th-largest in the world and has a total market cap of more than $7 billion.
Each time a transaction is issued with monero, the generated money gets transferred into a one-time address that is untraceable and which is created with the use of random numbers. And hence compared to bitcoin, this makes such transactions much more difficult to trace back. Cybersecurity experts said that in bitcoin transactions, anonymous but specific private addressed are linked to them. 
The largest Monero trading exchange in the world – with 24 percent of global trading done there, is Bithumb in South Korea. It is also amongst the busiest of the cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. The other two largest cryptocurrency exchanges are Hong Kong-based Bitfinex and Europe-based exchange HitBTC according to Monday’s figures.
Cryptocurrencies are a logical choice when conducting covert transactions because they are free of government regulations and the sanctions against North Korea, said Marshal Swatt, an expert in blockchain technology and financial exchange.
“They don’t by themselves discriminate between good and bad actors,” he said. “This makes it extremely compelling for countries like North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia and others to exploit these non-governmental blockchain currencies for their own self-interest.”