North Korean hackers stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency last year
Weak startups are the “year of advertising” thanks to the surge in the value of cryptocurrencies.

The past year has seen a huge increase in the value of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Atrium, so that in 2021 the value of Bitcoin was equal to 60% and Atrium increased by 80%. So it may come as no surprise that the ruthless North Korean hackers, who feed off the booming crypto economy, had a great year.

North Korean hackers stole a total of $395 million in cryptocurrency last year through seven break-ins at crypto-exchange and investment firms, according to China Blockchain Chainalysis analyst. The nine-digit figure represents an increase of nearly $100 million over last year's thefts by North Korean hackers, totaling $1.5 billion in cryptocurrency over the past five years alone — not counting hundreds of millions more in the country. stolen from the traditional financial system. The pile of stolen cryptocurrency now contributes significantly to the treasury of the authoritarian Kim Jong-un regime, which is seeking to fund itself - and its weapons program - despite severe and isolated sanctions and the country's faltering economy.

< p> img src = "picsbody / 2201 / 13222-1.jpg" alt = " North Korean hackers stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency last year" They’ve been a huge success,” says Erin Blunt, senior research director at Chainalysis, who called his 2021 report a “brilliant year” for North Korean crypto thefts. The findings show that chain and global thefts in North Korea have accelerated even in the midst of efforts to crack down on enforcement For example, in February last year, the US Department of Justice charged three North Koreans in absentia with stealing at least $121 million in digital currency functionality and a number of other financial crimes. A Canadian man was also charged with aiding and abetting money laundering. These efforts have not prevented the crypto fortune from bleeding. “We are excited to see law enforcement take action against North Korea, but the threat continues to grow,” says Blunt, not only mentioning the increase in the value of the digital currency. The growth of stolen funds is also linked to the number of thefts in last year, the seven violations committed Chainalysis tracks three times more in 2021 than it was in 2020, despite fewer than 10 successful attacks by North Korean hackers in 2018, when they broke the $522 million record.

for the first time. Since Chainalysis began tracking digital currency thefts in North Korea, bitcoin no longer occupies nearly most of the country, accounting for only about 20 percent of stolen funds. A total of 58% of these groups’ cryptocurrencies were stolen in the form of Ether, the Atrium network currency. The other 11 percent, about $40 million stolen in ERC-20 tokens, is crypto-asset used to create smart contracts on the Atrium China blockchain.

Plante Chainalysis features a focus on Atrium-based cryptocurrencies. Thefts totaled $272 million last year versus $161 million in 2020 — staggering asset prices in the Atrium economy, along with startups that fueled its growth. "Some of these exchanges and trading platforms are newer and potentially more vulnerable to this kind of snooping," he said. They deal heavily with Ether and ERC-20 tokens which are simpler targets. They are accused of stealing about $97 million in crypto assets from Japanese exchange in August, including $45 million in Atrium tokens. ( did not respond to WIRED's request for comment about its August hacker breach.) It has linked North Korea. He identified it as being under the control of North Korean pirates.

Chinalysis says the thefts were all committed by Lazarus, a group of hackers widely believed to serve the North Korean government. But other hacker tracking companies note that Lazarus has several distinct groups. However, security firm Mandiant mimics Chainalysis' findings that crypto theft is a priority for nearly every North Korean group it tracks, as well as any other mission it might pursue.

For example, last year, Fred Blanc, a senior Mandiant analyst, said the two North Korean Mandiant groups, TEMP.Hermit and Kimsuky, had a mission to target biomedical and pharmaceutical organizations that might have information on COVID- 19. theft. However, both groups continued to target crypto holders throughout the year. “The continuation of these financially motivated operations and campaigns is still a subset of all the other activities that should have been done in the past year,” says Blanc. The focus on traditional financial influences, such as the theft of $110 million from Mexican financial firm Bancomext and $81 million from a Bangladeshi bank, now appears to be turning its attention to cryptocurrency goals. “Almost all of the North Korean gangs that we track down are involved in some way in cryptocurrency,” says Blanc.

One of the reasons hackers focus on cryptocurrency more than any other type of financial crime is undoubtedly that. The relative ease of laundering digital cash For example, after the Bangladeshi bank robbery on APT38, North Korea was forced to use Chinese money laundering to gamble tens of millions of dollars in a casino in Manila to prevent investigators from tracking the stolen funds. In contrast, Chainalysis found that these groups have many options for laundering their stolen digital currency. They make their profits through exchanges - most of which operate in Asia-based exchanges and trade their cryptocurrencies in Chinese Renminbi - which are not very accurate according to KYC rules. These groups often used the services of "mixing" to disguise the source of the money. And in many cases, they have used decentralized exchanges designed to connect cryptocurrency traders directly without intermediaries, often with little to no anti-money laundering laws. The patient keeps the stolen password in cash, often years before the washout begins. In fact, it appears that hackers still own $170 million worth of illegal cryptocurrency from theft in previous years, which they will undoubtedly acquire over time.

All of that, according to Mandiant. Fred Blanc ends up in the reckoning of a highly militarized rebel state that has spent years under severe sanctions. "The North Korean regime has realized that they have no other choice," Blanc said. "They have no other real way to interact with the world or the economy. But they do have this great cyber capability." "And they can use it to bring money into the country." They prevent cleaning. BILL - Kim Jong Un's illegal and illegal revenue stream will continue to grow.

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