North Korean hackers managed to steal a fortune in cryptocurrency in 2021, according to the results of a recent study.
Cybercriminals based in North Korea “extracted nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year,” blockchain firm Chainalysis said in a preview of its 2022 Crypto Crime report released Thursday.
“These attacks targeted primarily investment firms and centralized exchanges, and made use of phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering to siphon funds out of these organizations’ internet-connected “hot” wallets into DPRK-controlled addresses,” the firm said in a preview of its 2022 Crypto Crime report.
“Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out,” the firm added.
North Korean hackers were linked to at least seven cyberattacks on crypto platforms last year and seized 40 percent more in value compared to 2020, according to the analysis. Ethereum accounted for 58 percent of the stolen tokens, while bitcoin accounted for 20 percent.
Lazarus Group, a hacker collective linked to North Korea’s main intelligence agency, is suspected of carrying out many of the attacks. The group is best known for carrying out the infamous Sony Pictures hack in 2014.
In a 2019 report, the United Nations Security Council noted that North Korea has increasingly turned to cryptocurrency hacking as a means of evading sanctions that have crippled its economy. North Korea is accused of using the funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Chainalysis said it has identified $170 million in hacked cryptocurrency that North Korea has yet to launder. The funds purportedly derive from 49 separate hacks from 2017 to 2021.