SEOUL: South Korean officials are investigating whether North Korea was involved in the theft from and collapse of a bitcoin exchange in South Korea Tuesday, according to published reports.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday that investigators are looking into the hack of Youbit, based in Seoul, and added the probe is in its earliest stages.
The Journal, citing people familiar with the investigation, said there are indications and historical evidence to support the idea that North Korea is responsible for the Youbit attack, and noted that North Korean hackers in April targeted the same cryptocurrency exchange, operating under a different name.
Yapian, the company that operates Youbit, suspended trading and filed for bankruptcy after Tuesday’s hack.
The report also noted that for the cash-strapped North Korean regime, stealing bitcoin could be attractive because of the cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise in value — starting the year around $1,000 and surging above $19,000 over the weekend.
Yapian said the hack cost the exchange 17% of its assets, but it didn’t declare the financial value of the loss.
According to the Journal, Youbit purchased at the beginning of the month a cyberinsurance policy from DB Insurance Co., a South Korean firm, with damage coverage up to about $2.8 billion. The Journal said a spokesman at DB Insurance said Youbit hasn’t filed a claim, and that Youbit has up to three years to do so.
On Tuesday, the White House said North Korea was behind a global malware attack last May named “WannaCry.” The attack encrypted and locked computers in more than 150 countries.