WASHINGTON: After the cryptocurrency mining market NiceHash revealed this week that hackers wiped out its entire Bitcoin wallet, security researchers now claim North Korea-based advanced persistent threat (APT) groups are increasingly attacking financial institutions and Bitcoin exchanges.
In a report in Sky News on Saturday, independent security researcher Ashley Shen claimed that after executing cyber attacks to steal confidential data and intelligence, some of the APT groups are now attacking financial institutions including Bitcoin.
To reach this conclusion, Shen and her colleagues tracked attacks by hacking groups Lazarus, Bluenoroff and Andariel -- suspected to be North Korean operations.
"Digital currency might be easier to gain than physical currency. So I think it's reasonable," Shen was quoted as saying.
The value of Bitcoin has doubled in the last two weeks -- it crossed $14,000 on Thursday, surging $2,000 in less than 24 hours -- owing to futures trading over its price in markets in the US, leading to growing interest among both individual investors and financial firms.
NiceHash said its payment system was compromised and the contents of its Bitcoin wallet were stolen. Coindesk reported that the loss is about 4,736.42 Bitcoins, worth more than $60 million.
Meanwhile, as cryptocurrency continues to skyrocket in value and popularity, malware targeting anonymous currencies such as Bitcoin will increase in 2018, enterprise cybersecurity company FireEye has said.
"Moving into 2018, we expect to see much more malware actively stealing cryptocurrency from weakly protected wallets, shimming password entry to wallets, stealing offline wallets for brute forcing or using credentials stolen from the same user," the firm said.
Bitcoins are created through a complex computer process known as mining, and then monitored by a network of computers across the world.
A steady stream of about 3,600 new Bitcoins are created a day -- with about 16.5 million now in circulation from a maximum limit of 21 million.