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North Korean hackers steal $3 billion worth of cryptocurrencies


Last year, North Korean hackers stole a volume of cryptocurrencies worth ten times what the country earned from exports in 2021, according to American cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. The total obtained by the country in the last six years — since 2017 — amounts to around US$3 billion, with more than half of that amount being stolen last year alone.

The Recorded Future report indicates that the amount of stolen cryptocurrencies is equivalent to approximately half of all North Korean military expenditures for this year. “North Korean threat operators have been accused of stealing an estimated $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in 2022 alone, an amount equivalent to approximately 5% of North Korea’s economy or 45% of its military budget.”

The document points out that, in addition, the value stolen exceeds the total annual revenue from exports to the country by a considerable margin.This value is also almost ten times greater than that obtained by the country with exports in 2021, which was US$182 million”, states the report.

The study notes that North Korean hackers initially targeted cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea, before expanding their focus to the rest of the world — exchanges are digital platforms where you can buy, sell, exchange and store cryptocurrencies.

“North Korean cybercriminal operators have shifted their target from traditional finance to this new digital financial technology, first targeting the South Korean cryptocurrency market before significantly expanding their reach globally.”

According to the study, this significant expansion in the scale of the illicit operation had the support of the North Korean government. “State support has enabled North Korean threat operators to scale their operations beyond what is possible for traditional cybercriminals,” the report stated.

Cryptocurrency theft has been a highly profitable activity, and not just for North Korean threat operators. Blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis has labeled cybercriminal syndicates as the most prolific cryptocurrency hackers in recent years. She also notes that hackers linked to North Korea were moving funds through cryptocurrency mixing services such as Tornado Cash and Sinbad at a much higher rate than other criminal groups. Cryptocurrency mixing “shuffles” one user’s cryptocurrencies with those of others, making it difficult to track them.


Source: CisoAdvisor, Recorded Future

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