28.01.2021

NSA Reportedly Developing Quantum-Resistant ‘Crypto’

In a previous report, CoinDesk looked at how, although still in its infancy, quantum computing could one day be able to crack much of the cryptography that underlies how data – including cryptocurrency private keys – passes through the internet.

Until now the National Security Agency (NSA) has restricted its activities in the crypto space (as far as we know) to tracking bitcoin users, but now the agency may be working to develop its own.

According to a tweet from Bloomberg cybersecurity reporter William Turton, the director of the NSA’s Cybersecurity Directorate, Anne Neuberger, said at the 10th Annual Billington CyberSecurity Summit in Washington D.C. that her agency is developing a quantum-resistant “crypto.”

While the reason for the NSA carrying out such work isn’t clear, quantum computing has the potential to be able to make current blockchain technology redundant.

It should be noted that Neuberger’s comment may indicate that the NSA is working on a cryptography technology, not a cryptocurrency, with the twin meanings of the term “crypto.”

The NSA’s new Cybersecurity Directorate was announced in July and is “charged with preventing and eradicating threats to National Security Systems and the Defense Industrial Base,” according to the agency. It’s expected to start its activities on Oct. 1.

Neuberger led the NSA’s Russia Small Group before moving to take up the reigns at the new cybersecurity division.

According to classified documents obtained by The Intercept in 2018 from U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has made bitcoin surveillance a top priority. One NSA memo suggested the agency had been collecting private information such as bitcoin user passwords, internet activity and device identifiers.

North Korean Internet Use Spikes 300% as Regime Turns to Cryptocurrencies

North Korea’s internet use saw a 300% surge over the past three years, as the country’s regime has continued to rely on cryptocurrencies for various activities.

Exploitation of crypto and blockchain technology is among the primary tactics for the country to generate revenue as well as transfer and use illicitly obtained funds, a new study says.

Titled “How North Korea Revolutionized the Internet as a Tool for Rogue Regimes,” the study was released on Feb. 9 by Insikt Group, an intelligence arm of United States-based cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. The report analyzed North Korean senior leadership’s internet activity between Jan. 1, 2019 and Nov. 1, 2019.

Using crypto for generating revenue and evading sanctions

According to the study, North Korea has continued to exploit cryptocurrencies as a strategic weapon, with the country’s political and military elite being reportedly involved in massive hacks of South Korean crypto exchanges, scams, cryptojacking, and crypto mining.

Alongside illicit banking operations and low-level information technology work and financial crime, the generation and theft of cryptocurrencies have become a major tool to generate revenue and circumvent international sanctions and regulations, the study says.

Some countries play unwitting hosts to North Korean cyber operations

According to Insikt, the internet has become a critical tool for North Korean leaders, providing not only a source for revenue generation, but also an instrument for obtaining prohibited knowledge such as data on ballistic missile programs and cyber operations. The study also noted that North Koreans that are involved in cybercrime are often sent abroad to get advanced training and nuclear-related knowledge banned by the United Nations.

In 2019, Insikt continued to trace North Korean agents in eight countries including India, China, Nepal, Kenya, Mozambique, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh. Specifically, the intelligence team suggested that China and India are the two major countries that unwittingly host and enable North Korea’s illicit operations.

As reported by Cointelegraph, North Korean hackers have allegedly taken responsibility for a number of hacks and phishing attacks of South Korean crypto exchanges such as UpBit. According to data from the United Nations, North Korea generated an estimated $2 billion by hacking banks and crypto exchanges, as reported in August 2019.

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