North Korean hackers allegedly stole nearly 0 million worth of cryptocurrency last year

North Korean hackers allegedly stole nearly $400 million worth of cryptocurrency last year

New York (CNN Business) North Korean hackers stole nearly $400 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2021, making it one of the most lucrative years yet for cybercriminals in the highly isolated country, according to a new report.

Hackers launched at least seven different attacks last year, mostly targeting investment firms and centralized exchanges with a variety of tactics including phishing, malware and social engineering, according to Chainalysis report , a company that tracks cryptocurrency. The cybercriminals tried to gain access to organizations’ “hot” wallets – internet-connected digital wallets – and then transfer funds to accounts controlled by the DPRK.

The thefts are the latest indication that the heavily sanctioned country continues to rely on a network of hackers to help fund its domestic programs. A confidential United Nations report previously accused the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un of carrying out “operations against virtual financial institutions and currency exchange offices” to pay for weapons and keep the North’s economy afloat. Korean.

Last February, the US Department of Justice charged three North Koreans with conspiring to steal more than $1.3 billion from banks and businesses around the world and orchestrating digital crypto heists. -cash.

“North Korea is, in many ways, cut off from the global financial system by a long sanctions campaign by the United States and its foreign partners.” says Nick Carlsen, analyst at blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs. “As a result, they went to the digital battlefield to steal crypto, basically, [a] bank robbery at Internet speed, to finance weapons programs, nuclear proliferation and other destabilizing activities”.

North Korean hacking efforts have benefited from the rising value of cryptocurrencies. Rising prices and usage of cryptocurrencies have generally made digital assets increasingly attractive to malicious actors, leading to more blockbuster crypto heists in 2021.

According to Chainalysis, most of the thefts over the past year were committed by the Lazarus Group, a hacking group with ties to North Korea that has previously been linked to the Sony Pictures hack, among other incidents. The group has been hit by US sanctions.

The United States or other countries can do next to nothing to combat North Korean crypto-hacking activities other than sanctions and defensive cybersecurity measures, as criminals have no real chance of being extradited. .

As the cryptocurrency market becomes increasingly popular, “we’re likely to see continued interest from North Korea in targeting crypto companies that are young and putting in place cyber defenses and controls. anti-money laundering,” Carlsen said.