According to a new report from U.S.-based security firm Recorded Future published on Oct. 25, the North Korean government has sponsored at least two scam coins.
In the report entitled “Shifting Patterns in Internet Use Reveal Adaptable and Innovative North Korean Ruling Elite,” Recorded Future’s research team Insikt Group mentions two alleged altcoin scams tied to North Korea.
The first scam coin allegedly backed by North Korea is called Interstellar coin, and was found by Insikt Group in June 2018. The coin has reportedly been rebranded a number of times, going by various names such as HOLD, HUZU, or Stellar. The latter should not be confused with the XLM token.
According to the report, the HOLD coin has been listed and delisted on a series of crypto exchanges, eventually defrauding investors in a scam staking scheme.
The second scam coin dubbed Marine Chain coin was detected in a “couple of Bitcoin forums” in August 2018. The coin, which supposedly enabled the tokenization of maritime vessels for multiple users and owners, was claimed to be fraudulent by the state of Ontario, Canada.
A slew of users complained about the loss of tens of thousands of dollars and scams on the website, which was hosted at four different IP addresses since its registration. Some users pointed out that the website marine-chain.io was a near mirror image of another site shipowner.io:
April 2018 screenshots of marine-chain.io and shipowner.io. Source: Recorded Future
In previous research, Insikt Group discovered that North Korean leaders were mining both Bitcoin (BTC) and privacy-oriented altcoin Monero (XMR), while at a limited or “relatively small scale.”
Earlier this year, Recorded Future released a report investigating the potential ties of major crypto exchange hacks with North Korea-affiliated cybercrime group Lazarus. Insikt noted the potential involvement of the group in the hack of South Korea’s Bithumb crypto exchange, following previous accusations of hacking Youbit exchange.
Last week, it was reported that Lazarus stole $571 million in cryptocurrencies since early 2017. According to cybercrime firm Group-IB, the total amount stolen from online crypto exchanges during the studied time between 2017 and 2018 reached $882 million.