Crypto Hacks Are 'Important Revenue' for North Korea
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Crypto Hacks Are 'Important Revenue' for North Korea

Created 4mo ago, last updated 4mo ago

On Friday, it emerged that North Korea had conducted nine ballistic missile launches in January alone — and Washington claims this is the most in the country's history.

Crypto Hacks Are 'Important Revenue' for North Korea

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Attacks on crypto exchanges are now "an important revenue source" for North Korea, according to a UN report.

The document — seen by the Reuters news agency — says hackers from the secretive state are continuing to target trading platforms that deal in digital assets.

Estimates suggest that more than $50 million was stolen by its cybercriminals from 2020 to the middle of 2021 — and businesses in North America, Europe and Asia have been affected.
Even this figure may prove conservative. Last month, the blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis estimated that the country had orchestrated seven attacks on crypto platforms in 2021 alone — extracting digital assets worth $400 million in the process.

Crypto has likely become important for Kim Jong Un's regime because of tough economic sanctions that have been imposed by the UN — with the cross-border nature of digital assets allowing them to sidestep these restrictions.

On Friday, it emerged that North Korea had conducted nine ballistic missile launches in January alone — and Washington claims this is the most in the country's history.

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A Growing Problem

Blockchain intelligence firms have been gaining a growing understanding of how North Korean hackers operate — with Chainalysis explaining that "phishing lures, code exploits, malware and advanced social engineering" are used to siphon funds out of victims' hot wallets and into addresses controlled by the country. From here, a "careful laundering process to cover up and cash out" begins.

At 58%, the vast majority of crypto that is stolen by North Korea is Ether — with ERC-20 tokens and altcoins representing 22%, and Bitcoin accounting for the remaining 20%.

Mixing services are used, and the vast majority of stolen crypto ends up being converted into Bitcoin and "sent to deposit addresses at crypto-to-fiat exchanges based in Asia."

Chainalysis also says that $170 million worth of swiped funds is sitting untouched and unlaundered — indicating attackers are waiting for scrutiny from law enforcement to die down before the crypto is moved. The blockchain intelligence firm didn't mince its words, adding:

"Systematic and sophisticated, North Korea's government — be it through the Lazarus Group or its other criminal syndicates — has cemented itself as an advanced persistent threat to the cryptocurrency industry in 2021."

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