Hackers linked to North Korea have managed to steal more than $200 million in cryptocurrency during 2023, accounting for over 20% of the total stolen crypto this year.
North Korean hackers stole millions of dollars this year year
This marks part of the more than $2 billion that cybercriminals have stolen over the past five years.
Although this year seems to be another lucrative period for cybercriminals, TRM Labs pointed out that the most successful year for hackers was last year, with over $800 million in cryptocurrency stolen. This was achieved primarily by targeting decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols in three major attacks, including the Ronin Bridge attack that resulted in the theft of $625 million in March.
The hackers employ various techniques to launder stolen funds, including chain hopping and mixers, before cashing out through exchanges with less stringent KYC/AML controls. After sanctions were imposed on the Tornado Cash Ethereum mixer, North Korean hackers have shown a preference for the Sinbad mixing service.
In June, hackers targeted Atomic Wallet users and stole approximately $100 million in multiple cryptocurrencies. TRM Labs revealed that the stolen Ethereum was sent to new addresses controlled by the hackers and converted into other cryptocurrencies through mixing services to obscure their origins.
TRM Labs, whose team includes former members of law enforcement agencies like INTERPOL, provides blockchain investigation services and underlines the importance of robust cybersecurity. They stress the need for hardware security modules, whitelisting addresses, and secure offline storage for cryptographic keys and passphrases.