South Korea plans to submit bill to freeze North’s crypto assets: Report

The government of South Korea is reportedly planning to submit a bill that will track and freeze North Korean crypto and virtual assets that are used to fund illicit weapons programs.

According to a report by a local media outlet, the Korea JoongAng Daily, multiple anonymous government sources confirmed on Aug. 3 that the bill is in the works. A government official who remained anonymous reportedly said that the bill would reflect the president’s belief that the country’s cybersecurity framework needs to be repaired, the report said.

Another unnamed source who works in the administration said that the bill’s latest version contains ways to “track and neutralize” crypto and other virtual assets stolen by North Korea through hacks and exploits. According to the report, this was not included in the initial bill proposed by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in November 2022.

Apart from the new cybersecurity bill, the administration is also reportedly planning on creating a national cybersecurity committee under the direct control of the president. The committee enforces various measures to enhance the country’s defenses against hacking attempts by foreign entities.

According to the report, this committee will be headed by the National Security Office’s chief and will include the NIS director.

North Korean hackers have stolen a large amount of digital assets from numerous victims through different exploits. On Aug. 18, blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs estimated that around $2 billion was lost to North Korean cyberattacks since 2018. The data shows that in 2023 alone, North Korea was responsible for the theft of $200 million worth of crypto, which is 20% of all the stolen funds this year.

Meanwhile, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also making an effort to track North Korean state-backed hackers. On Aug. 23, the FBI flagged six Bitcoin wallets connected to the North Korean hacking group Lazarus. The wallets had 1,580 Bitcoin (BTC), worth roughly $40 million, which is believed to be the spoils of various hacks.

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