Marshall Islands to launch digital currency this year

The Marshall Islands' is gearing to release a digital currency this year, although officials acknowledged Friday there is much work still to be done to alleviate concerns of United States financial regulators as well as solve technological and logistical issues. However, the launch date of the currency, known as the "SOV", has yet to be decided.

“We plan to launch SOV this year,” said Barak Ben Ezer, chief executive officer of Neema, the Israel-based company that is partnering with the Marshall Islands government to develop the digital currency.

A primary issue for the launch is that following the boom in 2017 and early 2018, the crypto-currency market value has plummeted.

"We are working days and nights to prepare the foundations of the SOV initial coin offering, with the goal of being ready to launch once positive momentum is back to the markets," Ezer said.

"It will be done once all stakeholders are convinced that SOV is ready, risks have been mitigated, and momentum is building." Neema and the Marshall Islands are working through a multitude of US regulatory concerns as well as the technological and logistical side of issuing the SOV using blockchain technology.

The Marshall Islands, a tiny Pacific atoll nation with a population of just 55,000, passed legislation a year ago to develop digital currency as legal tender.

The plan has since been criticized by the International Monetary Fund, the US Treasury Department and bank officials in the Marshall Islands.

They argue it has the potential for a negative impact on existing banks and for money-laundering, but Ezer believed that once fully developed, the SOV will be one the safest monetary systems in the world.

The US Treasury has concerns about "anonymous digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, (which) are often used for illicit purposes by people who want to conceal their identity," Ezer said.

South Korean Newspaper Reports North Korean Hackers Behind Attacks on Cryptocurrency Exchanges

Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean newspaper, on Saturday reported that according to a South Korean spy agency, North Korean Hackers were behind the theft of about $6.99 million (7.6 billion won) worth of cryptocurrencies this year, which now amount to almost $82.7 million (90 billion won).

The report said that these attacks included the theft of cryptocurrencies from accounts at exchanges Yapizon (now called Youbit), and Coinis, in April and September.

According to the report by the newspaper, the leaks of the personal information of about 36,000 accounts from Bitthumb, a major cryptocurrency exchange, in June were also connected with North Korean hackers, as discovered by the country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS).

Again citing NIS, Chosun Ilbo also reported that these hackers had demanded around $5.5 million (6 billion won) in return for deleting the stolen information.

These hackers were also responsible for another attack on about 10 other exchanges in October which was stopped by Korea Internet Security Agency (KISA), as per the report.

The newspaper also reported that according to NIS, the malware used in the emails to hack the exchanges were made with a similar method to the one used in hacking Sony Pictures in 2014 and the Central Bank of Bangladesh in 2016 and that the email ids used in the attacks were also North Korean.