Bitcoin Mining May Be Funding North Korea

North Korea may be turning to the shadowy internet currency bitcoin to get around increasingly intrusive U.S.-led sanctions barring its access to the world banking system and fund its missile and nuclear programs, financial experts warn.

A recent private intelligence study detailed how the North Korean hackers have dramatically ramped up a bitcoin "mining" operation, and analysts say Pyongyang may be bent on using the elusive digital currency as a way to undermine U.S.-led efforts to financially isolate the regime of Kim Jong-un.

"North Korea using these technologies is not exactly a loophole to the sanctions -- that could be overstating the power of bitcoin itself," Yaya Fanusie, a former CIA counterterrorism analyst, told The Washington Times. "But you have a cat-and-mouse game evolving, and this is just the type of emerging technology that the [U.S. intelligence community] needs to develop expertise to understand."

Mr. Fanusie noted that, despite its reputation, bitcoin transactions can still be tracked by international authorities.

But a second former U.S. intelligence official told The Times on Monday that the digital currency did present major new challenges for American officials seeking to cut off North Korea's money taps.

"We're good at tracking traditional banking, but bitcoin is not a Swiss bank," said the former official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. The U.S., he said, should not underestimate the North's increasing hacking and online sophistication.

The bitcoin speculation comes amid rising tensions in the region, with the North Korean foreign minister telling reporters in New York that President Trump's increasingly tough rhetoric and military moves amounted to a "declaration of war."

Recorded Future, a private cybersecurity firm, issued a report last week that identified what it said was a major effort by the cash-strapped regime to subvert financial sanctions.

Under persistent U.S. prodding, the U.N. Security Council last month unanimously banned North Korea...

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