North Korean hackers have increased their thefts since 2019, collecting $400 million in cryptocurrency via cyber assault in 2021. According to new Chainalysis statistics, North Korean crypto hackers stole approximately $400 million in cryptocurrency through cyber assaults in 2021. According to the blockchain analytics firm's Jan. 13 study, the sort of cryptocurrency stolen has also changed dramatically. BTC accounted for virtually all of the cryptocurrency taken by the DPRK in 2017, but it currently accounts for only one-fifth of the total:
“In 2021, only 20% of the stolen funds were Bitcoin, whereas 22% were either ERC-20 tokens or altcoins. And for the first time ever, Ether accounted for a majority of the funds stolen at 58%.” According to the research, North Korean (DPRK) assaults in 2021 mostly targeted “investment businesses and centralized exchanges, and made use of phishing lures, code vulnerabilities, malware, and advanced social engineering” to fraudulently obtain the assets.
According to a UN Security Council assessment, stolen bitcoin is thought to be used by the DPRK to escape economic restrictions and to assist fund nuclear weapons and ballistic missile projects. The DPRK's danger to global crypto platforms has grown ever-present. Chainalysis now refers to Hermit Kingdom hackers, such as the Lazarus Group, as advanced persistent threats (APT). These risks have grown in the last three years, after the all-time high of more than $500 million in crypto stolen in 2018.
According to Chainalysis, the monies were methodically laundered. Chain hopping, the ‘Peel Chain' approach, and, more recently, a complex system of currency exchanges and mixing have all been used by hackers. Mixers were used on more than 65 percent of the monies stolen in 2021, a threefold increase over 2019. A mixer is a software-based privacy mechanism that allows users to conceal the origin and destination of their currencies. Decentralized exchanges (DEX) are becoming increasingly popular with hackers because they are permissionless and contain enough liquidity for currencies to be switched at the user's discretion.
Chainalysis referenced the Aug. 19, 2021 incident at Liquid.com, in which $91 million in cryptocurrency was taken, as an example of how DPRK hackers often launder assets. They began by exchanging ERC-20 currencies for Ether (ETH) on decentralized exchanges. The ETH was then transferred to a mixer and exchanged for Bitcoin (BTC), which was likewise mixed. Finally, as a possible fiat off-ramp, BTC was routed from the mixer to centralized Asian exchanges.
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