One month ago, the South Korean bitcoins trading platform Youbit announced that it had been robbed of 17% of its assets. A computer robbery that could have been carried out by North Korea.
Strangled by international sanctions, Kim Jong-Un's regime is said to have become masters of cyber attacks targeting virtual currencies.
A jackpot of $80 million?
Certainly, Bitcoin's destiny has often crossed paths with North Korea lately. On November 29, the latest ballistic missile test in Pyongyang put the course of the Bitcoin into orbit, saving more than $1,000 in 24 hours. On Tuesday, December 20, it is above one of the most violent air holes in cryptocurrencies this year that hid the shadow of the last Stalinist regime of the planet.
On that day, South Korea's Youbit platform announced that 17% of its assets had been stolen in a single cyber attack. Founded in 2013, Youbit is the fourth largest virtual currency exchange in South Korea. We buy and sell bitcoins, but also Zcash or Ethereum. For Youbit, this attack is the “coup de grâce”: last April, a first breach in its servers allowed hackers to steal more than 3,800 bitcoins. In reality, it would be over 4,000 units. Barely a handful of the 850,000 bitcoins stolen from Mt. Gox in 2014, but at the current price, the damage to Youbit would be about 82 million dollars, which the bankrupt company will try to pay back to the victims.
Bitcoin, target number one in DDoS attacks
For Seoul, the culprit is clearly to blame: Pyongyang, its turbulent neighbour to the north, already suspected of several attacks on the country's other crypto-platforms, including Bithumb, one of the world's first, but also Yapizon and Coinis. South Korea is one of the strongholds for virtual currencies: 15-25% of world trade is processed in the peninsula. And the technique used on Tuesday on Youbit is in similar to last April's attack. Pyongyang, of course, denies any responsibility.
The Youbit affair comes at a time when, around the world, platforms trading bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies are the target of growing attacks. According to Bitcoin magazine, three-quarters of them were attacked in the third quarter of 2017. They have even become the number one target of DDoS (denial of service) attacks. This is the price of success: according to a survey by Merryl Lynch Bank, the bitcoin is cited by speculators as their favourite investment before the GAFA.