North Korean hackers stole $400m in crypto in 2021: Chainalysis thumbnail

North Korean hackers stole $400m in crypto in 2021: Chainalysis

North Korean hackers stole around $400 million worth of
cryptocurrency through cyberattacks on digital currency outlets last year,
blockchain data platform Chainalysis said on Thursday. 

Pyongyang is under multiple international
sanctions over its atomic bomb and ballistic missile developments but analysts
say the North has also built up its cyber capabilities with an army of
thousands of well-trained hackers who extract finances to fund the state’s
weapons programs. 

In 2021, the hackers launched seven attacks
on crypto platforms, extracting assets from “internet-connected ‘hot’
wallets” and moving them to North Korean controlled accounts, according to
Chainalysis. 

“Once North Korea gained custody of
the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash
out,” Chainalysis said in a report published on its website. 

“These complex tactics and techniques
have led many security researchers to characterize cyber actors for the
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as advanced persistent
threats.” 

The report highlighted the rise of Lazarus
Group, which gained notoriety in 2014 when it was accused of hacking into Sony
Pictures Entertainment as revenge for “The Interview,” a satirical
film that mocked leader Kim Jong Un. 

“From 2018 on, The group has stolen
and laundered massive sums of virtual currencies every year, typically in
excess of $200 million.” 

The hackers also target a diverse variety
of cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin, the world’s largest digital currency,
accounting for only a quarter of stolen assets. 

“The growing variety of
cryptocurrencies stolen has necessarily increased the complexity of DPRK’s
cryptocurrency laundering operation,” Chainalysis said. 

North Korea’s cyber-programme dates back to
at least the mid-1990s, but has since grown to a 6,000-strong cyberwarfare
unit, known as Bureau 121, that operates from several countries including
Belarus, China, India, Malaysia and Russia, according to a 2020 US military
report.

The United States imposed new sanctions on
North Korea this week following what Pyongyang called hypersonic missile tests
on January 5 and 11. 

On Friday South Korean and Japanese officials said
North Korea fired an unidentified projectile eastward in its third suspected
weapons test in just over a week.

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