North Korea stole a record $400 million in cryptocurrency last year, researchers say

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Researchers have found that North Korea stole about $400 million in cryptocurrency, specifically Ethereum, in 2021, indicating that its national strategy of hacking and digital money laundering remains successful.

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An isolated country surrounded by sanctions from the United States and other countries trusted for a long time At its hacker core to break into financial institutions around the world to steal money. In recent years, those hackers have focused on companies that handle and trade cryptocurrency, which is stored in digital wallets and can easily be sent around the world if the hacker gains access.

a United Nations report last year found that North Korea stole and stole $316 million in virtual assets between 2019 and 2020 to use for its nuclear weapons program.


This strategy was particularly effective last year, according to researchers from Chainalysis, a company that monitors transactions on the blockchain, a type of public record that tracks all transactions for most cryptocurrencies. North Korean hackers successfully breached at least seven cryptocurrency exchanges and laundered funds, The company said.

The value of many cryptocurrencies has increased rapidly in recent years, and software developers have created an entire ecosystem of projects and exchanges that allow users to exchange one type of cryptocurrency for another, or trade virtual money for cash. allows. While many major exchanges follow guidelines for collecting information about users to combat money laundering, the Internet is also full of places that open doors for malicious actors such as hackers from North Korea.

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According to Research From cybersecurity company Kaspersky, also published Thursday, North Korea has a dedicated hacking team that is relentlessly attacking small and medium-sized companies dealing with cryptocurrency and related projects. Such companies are often targets of hackers who stole a record $14 billion cryptocurrency last year.

Unlike many criminals who obtain cryptocurrency, North Korea is not in a hurry to immediately convert it to traditional currency, said Erin Plante, senior director of investigation at Chainalysis and author of the report.

Instead, it continues to launder moderate amounts of its hacked cryptocurrencies, while keeping about $170 million from older hacks, he said, capitalizing on the fact that major cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum have been trading in recent years. Price has increased.

“They’re very strategic. They’re not in a rush to cash out,” Plante said. “They’re looking at quite a large amount” as they wait, she said.

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