North Korean Hackers Steal $3 Billion in Cryptocurrency: Recorded Future
According to a recent report by United States cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, North Korean hackers have stolen approximately $3 billion in cryptocurrency since 2017. More than half of this staggering amount was stolen in the past year alone, indicating a significant increase in North Korea’s focus on the cryptocurrency industry.
Recorded Future’s report highlights that the stolen crypto equates to around half of North Korea’s entire military expenses for the year. In 2022 alone, North Korean threat actors were accused of stealing an estimated $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrency. This sum is equivalent to roughly 5% of North Korea’s economy or 45% of its military budget.
The stolen amount surpasses the nation’s total annual income from exports by a considerable margin. In fact, the report states that it is almost 10 times more than the value of North Korea’s exports in 2021, which stood at $182 million.
Initially, North Korean hackers targeted South Korea for its cryptocurrency, but they have since expanded their focus to the rest of the world. The report explains, “North Korean cyber operators shifted their targeting from traditional finance to this new digital financial technology by first targeting the South Korean cryptocurrency market before significantly expanding their reach globally.”
It is worth noting that support from the North Korean government has played a significant role in the expansion of this illicit activity. The report declares, “State backing allows North Korean threat actors to scale their operations beyond what is possible for traditional cybercriminals.”
In recent news, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on crypto mixer Sinbad, alleging that the platform facilitated funds laundered for the North Korea-based Lazarus Group. This further highlights the involvement of North Korean hackers in the cryptocurrency space.
According to a UN report, cyber attacks in 2022 were more sophisticated than in previous years, making it increasingly difficult to trace stolen funds. Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis has labeled North Korean-linked hackers as the most prolific cryptocurrency hackers over the past few years. They have observed that these hackers are moving funds through crypto mixers such as Tornado Cash and Sinbad at a significantly higher rate compared to other criminal groups.
It is evident that North Korean hackers have become a major threat to the cryptocurrency industry, with their operations expanding globally. The scale of their illicit activity, coupled with state backing, poses significant challenges for cybersecurity professionals and law enforcement agencies.