NK estimated to have made up to US$210 mln with bitcoin: report

March 2, 2018

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) — North Korea is believed to have raked in more than US$200 million via digital cryptocurrency transactions last year amid international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs, a U.S. broadcaster reported Friday, citing a former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) cyber security official.

The North is estimated to have obtained at least 11,000 bitcoins via mining or hacking last year, Radio Free Asia cited Priscilla Moriuchi, the ex-NSA official in charge of cyber security in the Asia and Pacific region, as saying in an e-mail.

If the North still had the bitcoins as of January, their value is estimated at $120 million, Moriuchi, who is now a director at Recorded Future, a U.S. real-time cyber threat intelligence provider, said.

If the North monetized them in mid-December when their price was at its peak, however, their value would be $210 million, according to her.

The North is turning to cryptocurrency to counter economic sanctions and secure funds to buttress its regime and nuclear and missile programs, she said.

The broadcaster did not provide detailed grounds for how she had calculated the amount of the bitcoin.