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North Korea Seized $ 400 Million Recorded in Crypto in 2021: Report

  • 2021 was the most successful year for crypto hackers in North Korea as they stole $ 400M worth of crypto.
  • The country has been accused of using stolen funds to evade international sanctions.

Last year, North Korean hackers drained about $ 400 million (€ 291M) in digital assets drained from cryptocurrency platforms, the highest figure ever recorded.

“From 2020 to 2021, the number of hacks related to North Korea increased from four to seven, and the value of those hacks increased by 40%,” reads a report Thursday from blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, calling 2021 as the «star year» for North Korean cryptocurrency hackers.

It should be noted that the attacks were primarily targeted at investment companies and centralized exchanges such as Liquid.com. The platform reported unauthorized access to its crypto wallet in August.

The hackers used various techniques like phishing lures, code exploitation, and malware. High-level social engineering has been used to transfer funds from the hot wallets of organizations to North Korean-controlled addresses.

Most of these attacks were probably executed by the so-called «Lazarus Group» Chain notes. This group is believed to be run by North Korea’s main intelligence office, the General Exploration Office. The group has previously been charged with carrying out the global ransomware attack «WannaCry» in May 2016. It was also linked to the 2014 Sony Pictures cyber attack and other attacks on international banks. Based on these allegations, the group and two others were approved by the U.S. Treasury in 2019.

North Korea has encrypted hackers

“Once North Korea got custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process for cover and collection,” the report noted.

The hackers made extensive use of mixers or tumblers to hide their trace. In addition, the researchers noted that the country would retain the stolen funds, after $ 170M of un laundered cryptocurrency holdings from 49 separate attacks from 2017 to 21. The makers expect that the interest of law enforcement in time for withdrawal, according to the report. .

No matter why, how long (North Korea) is willing to hold these funds, it is clear, because it proposes a careful plan, not a desperate and hasty plan.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang, the country’s capital, is using stolen funds to facilitate its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, said a UN panel monitoring sanctions on North Korea. According to the panel, this is a tactic to circumvent international sanctions, such as Monero’s mining boom in 2019-20.

A few days ago, the Biden administration imposed new sanctions on North Korea after advancing its missile programs. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and his spokesmen defended their actions as a fair exercise in self-defense. The North has called the sanctions «isolating and suffocating», and has warned of more retaliation if Washington continues its «troubled posture».

hackers without limits

Another report published late last year revealed that North Korean hackers stole more than $ 1.7 billion in cryptocurrencies from exchanges in the United States, South Korea and Indonesia, among other things. And in February of that year, the U.S. indicted three North Korean computer programmers for their part in a hacking wave worth more than $ 1.3 billion. According to the Department of Justice, victims of the attack included banks and Hollywood movie studios, among others.

North Korea continues to deny any involvement in these hacks.

Escher Booko

I am fascinated by the complex possibilities of blockchain technology and try to make the subject accessible to everyone. My goal is to make the world aware of cryptocurrencies in a simple and understandable way. I believe that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology will have a great positive impact on people's lives.

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