In 2021, North Korean Hackers Stole Approximately $400 Million in Cryptocurrency.

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Last year, North Korean hackers stole approximately $400 million in cryptocurrency through cyberattacks on digital currency outlets, according to blockchain data platform Chainalysis.
Pyongyang is under international sanctions for developing an atomic bomb and ballistic missiles, but analysts say the North has also strengthened its cyber capabilities, with an army of thousands of well-trained hackers extracting funds to fund the state’s weapons programs.

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North Korean hackers stole approximately $400 million in cryptocurrency
In 2021, North Korean Hackers Stole Approximately $400 Million in Cryptocurrency.

According to Chainalysis, the hackers launched seven attacks on crypto platforms in 2021, stealing assets from “internet-connected ‘hot’ wallets” and transferring them to North Korean-controlled accounts.

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

“Due to the complexity of these tactics and techniques, many security researchers have classified cyber actors for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as advanced persistent threats.”

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

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“Every year since 2018, the group has stolen and laundered massive sums of virtual currency, typically in excess of $200 million.”

In addition, the hackers target a wide range of cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin, the world’s largest digital currency, accounting for only a quarter of all stolen assets.

“The increasing variety of stolen cryptocurrencies has inevitably increased the complexity of the DPRK’s cryptocurrency laundering operation,” Chainalysis stated.

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

The United States imposed new sanctions on North Korea this week in response to what Pyongyang described as hypersonic missile tests on January 5 and 11.

South Korean and Japanese officials said on Friday that North Korea fired an unidentified projectile eastward, its third suspected weapons test in less than a week.

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