North Korea steps up Monero mining activities: report

North Korea has stepped up its crypto mining activities, with as much as a 300% increase in network activity since 2017, according to details of a new report.

The rogue state has long been known to be active in cryptocurrency, as well as suspected of involvement in a number of cryptocurrency scams, including ransomware attacks. Now, according to a new report published by Insikt Group, North Korea is gearing up its crypto mining efforts, as the activity becomes ever more central to its revenue model.

In the report, titled “How North Korea Uses the Internet to Circumvent International Sanctions,” the company noted how the country had established a business model other sanctioned states could follow in using cryptocurrency to evade international sanctions.

At its most basic, North Korea has developed a model that leverages the internet as a mechanism for sanctions circumvention that is distinctive, but not exceptional. This model is unique but repeatable, and most concerningly can serve as an example for other financially isolated nations, such as Venezuela, Iran, or Syria, for how to use the internet to circumvent sanctions.

According to the report, North Korea was increasingly reliant on infrastructure routed through Russia to mine cryptocurrency and leverage technology to its advantage.

“We have observed a 300% increase in the volume of activity to and from North Korean networks since 2017. We assess this is due to a number of factors, including the increased use of the Russian-routed TransTelekom infrastructure, the use of some of North Korea’s previously unresolved IP space, and the stand-up of new mail servers, FTP servers, and DNS name servers to support an increased traffic load,” it noted.

The report said North Korea operates with a particular emphasis on Monero, the privacy coin at the heart of so many online scams and frauds due to its obscured blockchain. According to the report, this anonymity was what appealed to the North Korean state, helping cover its tracks from the international community.

“We have observed an at least tenfold increase in Monero mining activity from North Korean IP ranges since May 2019. We believe that Monero’s anonymity and lower processing power requirements likely make Monero more attractive than Bitcoin to North Korean users.”

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