North Korean Hackers Stole $400m in Cryptocurrency Last Year
North Korean cyber-criminals stole nearly $400m worth of cryptocurrency in 2021, according to a new report by blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis.
The researchers said hackers from the rogue state extracted the funds following at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms, primarily targeting investment firms and centralized exchanges. This represents a significant rise from four hacks recorded in 2020, with the value extracted from heists in 2021 up by 40%.
According to the study, the attackers used various techniques to siphon the funds out of the victims’ internet-controlled “hot” wallets into Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)-controlled addresses. These included phishing lures, code exploits, malware and advanced social engineering.
“Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out,” stated the report.
The researchers added that it is likely many of these hacks were carried out by the notorious Lazarus Group (APT 38), which is led by North Korea’s main intelligence agency, Reconnaissance General Bureau. Lazarus has been blamed for high-profile attacks in recent years, including Wannacry. However, the authors observed that since 2018, the group has focused its efforts on cryptocurrency crime, “a strategy that has proven immensely profitable.”
Indeed, North Korean hackers have been linked to a number of major crypto heists in recent years, and a report last year by Venafi found that cybercrime is now the primary means by which the authoritarian state is funded.
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