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UN links North Korea to theft of $281 million cryptocurrency exchange


A United Nations (UN) report to the Security Council, to which Reuters had access, “strongly suggests” that hackers linked to the North Korean government were involved in the cyber attack on the KuCoin cryptocurrency exchange in September last year.

The attack resulted in the stealing of $ 281 million in cryptocurrencies from the Singapore-based company, although KuCoin CEO Johnny Lyu later revealed that $ 204 million was recovered the following week.

He also claimed at the time that investigators revealed the identity of the attackers, although he did not disclose the identity of the cybercriminals. “A preliminary analysis, based on the vectors of attack and subsequent efforts to launder money, strongly suggests links to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” said the UN, without naming KuCoin.

The UN said Blockchain records revealed that the same attackers were behind another $ 23 million attack in October, according to the news agency.

The hackers apparently tried to circumvent the larger cryptocurrency trading platforms, which set off the alarm, using “brokers” that facilitate cryptocurrency exchange from person to person.

“According to sources familiar with both hacks, the attackers exploited ‘defi’ protocols, that is, smart contracts that facilitate automated transactions,” said the UN.

The attack certainly fits the operating model of hackers supported by the North Korean state. In 2019, a UN report stated that the Kim Jong-un regime had stolen up to $ 2 billion from banks and cryptocurrency exchange operations for its weapons of mass destruction program. As an international pariah, North Korea’s conditions for obtaining this type of financing are not easy for the regime.

The UN report states that cyber attacks, including cryptocurrency theft, can “generate revenue in a way that is more difficult to track and subject to less supervision, in addition to the fact that cryptocurrency exchange is less regulated than the traditional banking sector.”

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