North Korean hackers claim that they stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency last fiscal year

According to Chainalysis, which tracks cryptocurrency, hackers launched at least seven attacks last year. They targeted investment firms and central exchanges, using a variety of tactics including malware and social engineering. The cybercriminals worked to gain access to organizations’ “hot” wallets — digital wallets that are connected to the internet — and then move funds into DPRK-controlled accounts.

These thefts are yet another sign that North Korea, which is heavily sanctioned, continues to rely upon a network hackers to fund its domestic programs. An earlier confidential United Nations report had accused North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un of “operations against financial institution and virtual currency exchange house houses” in order to buy weapons and maintain North Korea’s economy.
The US Justice Department indicted three North Koreans last February for conspiring against $1.3 billion of theft from banks and businesses around the world, and orchestrating crypto-heists.

“North Korea has been cut off from the global financial market in the most fundamental ways by the US and its foreign partners’ long-running sanctions campaign.” said Nick Carlsen, analyst at blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs. “They have used the digital battlefield to steal crypto, basically, [a]Bank robbery at lightning speed, to fund weapons programs and nuclear proliferation, and other destabilizing actions.”

The surging cryptocurrency value has benefited the hacking efforts of North Korean hackers. Due to the rise in cryptocurrency usage and prices, digital assets have become more attractive to malicious actors. This has led to more crypto heists in 2021.
Chainalysis reports that most of the thefts last year were committed by The Lazarus Group. This hacking group has links to North Korea and was responsible for most of the thefts. Sony Pictures hackAmong other incidents. This group was also hit by Sanctions by the USA.

As criminals are unlikely to be extradited, there is very little that the United States or any other country can do to counter the North Korean crypto hacking activities.

Carlsen said that the popularity of cryptocurrency is increasing, and North Korea will continue to be interested in targeting young businesses that build cyber defenses to prevent money laundering.