As the globe confronts the “mother of all economic crises,” cryptocurrency boosters are having a stark realization of their own: this means you, too. It’s quite the irony that a financial universe created to replace the real one is getting dragged down by old-economy dynamics it planned to ignore. Bitcoin and other such curiosities have been falling on their own, of course, as crypto exchanges descend into scandal and farce. Now, as economist Nouriel Roubini warns of the above-mentioned crisis, crypto enthusiasts are, too, scrambling for cover as values nosedive for more conventional reasons. Yet this gets at another irony: the crypto super fan with the most to lose may be North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. The most opaque nuclear power used to stay afloat counterfeiting $100 bills, pirating pharmaceuticals and blackmailing neighbors for cash, oil and food via missile launches and nuclear threats. Not so much now as hacking crypto exchanges becomes not just Pyongyang’s top industry but a growing one. In the first five months of 2022 alone, Kim’s hacker army netted at least $840 million stealing cryptoassets from exchanges around the globe, reports blockchain research firm Chainalysis. That’s $200 million-plus more than Kim’s hackers are thought to have plundered in all of 2021.
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