January 8, 2024

North Korean Hackers Stole $600 Mln in Digital Assets in 2023

North Korean Hackers

North Korean Hackers

A report from TRB Labs revealed that one-third of all crypto hacks last year were orchestrated by bad actors from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Despite a 30% decrease from the previous year’s $850 million, North Korean crypto hackers, likely led by the notorious Lazarus Group, could still steal $600 million in digital assets in 2023. This amount could rise by $100 million if stoppage time hacks, like the $80 million Orbit Bridge exploit, are attributed to Lazarus and North Korea’s cybercriminal organizations.

TRB Labs found that DPRK-affiliated hackers have siphoned off about $1.5 billion from crypto in two years and have stolen nearly $3 billion since 2017. These attacks are usually carried out through social engineering campaigns aimed at crypto startups’ and decentralized protocols’ employees.

After successfully compromising a target, Lazarus hackers steal private keys and seed phrases, which are crucial for cryptocurrency storage, and use them to carry out unauthorized blockchain transactions.

The stolen assets are then distributed among multiple wallets, and some of them are later put into a crypto mixer such as Tornado Cash or Sinbad. North Korean hackers convert their stolen cryptocurrencies into fiat by using OTC desks to trade tokens like USDT, Tether’s stablecoin.

The company has increased its efforts to prevent money laundering and is collaborating with the US Treasury to fight against illicit finance. However, protocols like Tornado Cash, Sinbad, and Blender.io, which allow users to hide their transactions, have been sanctioned by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

The US government has implemented OFAC sanctions to counter the operations of Lazarus, a group believed to be channeling profits to the nuclear program of North Korea.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has identified crypto mixers as a national security threat. The US is also in talks with other world governments to address the issue. A trilateral initiative involving the governments of the US, South Korea, and Japan has been launched by Lazarus and other actors believed to be funding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to combat cryptocurrency money laundering.

Author profile

Whether you want to learn about NFT, Blockchain, Web3.0, Metaverse, or any other emerging technologies, we have the vital resources that will enlighten and help you make an informed decision.