North Korea: Hackers loot crypto worth USD 400 million in 2021

North Korean crypto hackers have according to a report by Chainanalysis stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrencies through cyberattacks in 2021. This is almost twice as much as in 2019. According to the blockchain analysis company, the focus seems to have changed. While Bitcoin made up the majority of all cryptocurrencies stolen by North Korean hackers in 2017, the share of the largest cryptocurrencies has fallen to one-fifth. Ethereum, on the other hand, is much more popular with criminals.

The attacks were primarily aimed at investment firms and central stock exchanges. The hackers used phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering, according to Chainanalysis. They then drew funds from the hot wallets of these organizations. Once the North Korean hackers obtained the funds, they began their careful money laundering operations to disguise the origin of the funds.

North Korea uses special money laundering tactics

However, the report does not suspect any private individuals to be behind the hacking attacks. Instead, he assumes that these are targeted maneuvers by the government in North Korea. A UN Security Council report alleges the stolen crypto assets will be used by North Korea to circumvent economic sanctions and fund nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The threat that North Korean hackers pose to global crypto platforms is ever-present, according to Chainalysis. The report describes how meticulously the criminals laundered the funds. Methods range from chain hopping to the “peel chain” method to a complicated system of coin swapping and mixing that the hackers have been employing lately. The hack on August 19, 2021, which lost $91 million in cryptocurrencies, is a case in point.

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North Korea: Hackers loot crypto worth USD 400 million in 2021