U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said in a report Sunday that network traffic for monero (XMR) mining that had originated from North Korean IP ranges had increased by “at least tenfold” since May 2019, making it the most popular digital asset to mine and surpassing the regime’s mining activity for bitcoin (BTC).
North Korea is stepping up mining of the privacy coin monero as the regime continues its efforts to circumvent sanctions.
The report attributes the changing preference for monero to the fact XMR mining can take place on non-specialized machines, such as conventional computers, which lowers operating costs and negates the need to import mining rigs from abroad.
Monero transactions are also anonymous, making it easier for North Korea to “evade attempts to track funds” as well as circumvent sanctions imposed on the regime by the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council, according to Recorded Future.
“We assess that cryptocurrencies are a valuable tool for North Korea as an independent, loosely regulated source of revenue generation, but also as a means for moving and using illicitly obtained funds,” its report reads.
Recorded Future’s report said the regime’s mining activity had been obfuscated with proxy IP addresses, meaning analysts could not determine the share of the XMR hashrate for which North Korea was responsible.
Although a U.N. study previously suggested a branch of the North Korean military was responsible for the regime’s crypto mining activity, Record Future’s study was not able to say which entity was responsible based on the data it collected.
Monero has been used by North Korea since at least August 2017 when operatives involved in the WannaCry attack exchanged extorted bitcoin into monero. The regime’s bitcoin mining activity has remained relatively static over the past two years, according to the report.
Monero is the preferred cryptocurrency for many illicit and criminal organizations. A Japanese cybersecurity firm reported this week the mysterious hacking group Outlaw had developed a range of sophisticated crypto mining bots that can infiltrate enterprise computer systems to covertly mine monero.
New York Power Plant Sold Up to 30% of Its Bitcoin Mining Hash Rate to Institutional Buyers
The sale was enabled through the execution of BitOoda’s hash contracts, which allow institutional buyers to get exposure to bitcoin mining without having to go through the process of purchasing and setting up equipment.
At the Bitcoin network’s current mining competition level, 1 TH/s of computing power would be able to produce about 0.00001709 BTC in a day. As such, the deal would give the buyers a daily yield of about 1.8 BTC – worth around $13,000 – in addition to having the corresponding hardware pledged as collaterals.
That said, with the Bitcoin network’s halving event approaching in about 30 days, the total newly minted BTC in 24 hours will be reduced from right now around 1800 units to 900 after mid-May.
Greenidge said in the announcement it benefits from locking in profits and receiving an upfront source of capital to continue expanding its operations. The firm declined to disclose the amount of the sales. But major bitcoin miner manufacturers have been recently advertising around $23 per TH/s for several of their newest machines.
“Providing the same kind of time-tested hedging capabilities seen in traditional commodity markets, such product brings the benefits of clean and energy-efficient bitcoin mining from Greenidge to institutional investors throughout the United States”, Greenidge CFO Tim Rainey said in the announcement.
In early March, it was reported that Greenidge was producing on average 5.5 BTC a day by utilizing 14 megawatt of its total 106 megawatts capacity.
The Bitcoin network’s total hash rate back then was around 118 million TH/s on average, which means the firm possessed roughly 357,000 TH/s of computing power at the time. It has plugged in additional equipment over the past several weeks.