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Report: North Korean Hackers Stolen $200M So Far in 2023

The cyber landscape continues to evolve, and in a concerning development, North Korean hackers have managed to amass over $200 million in stolen cryptocurrency during 2023, accounting for a staggering 20% of the total stolen crypto this year. These findings come from a recent report by blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs, revealing the deep-reaching impact of these illicit activities.

This year’s tally of stolen funds forms a part of the larger narrative, with cybercriminals having stolen more than $2 billion in cryptocurrency over the past five years. However, TRM Labs points out that the pinnacle of their success was last year when hackers raked in over $800 million by primarily targeting decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols. The Ronin Bridge attack was notable, which led to the theft of $625 million in March, underscoring the audacious nature of these assaults.

State-sponsored and independent Hackers have mastered intricate techniques to launder their ill-gotten gains. The report highlights methods such as chain hopping and mixers, which obscure the origins of the stolen funds. To evade detection, hackers cash out through exchanges with less rigorous Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) controls.

Amid the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between hackers and authorities, the report exposes an intriguing shift in tactics. Following sanctions imposed on the Tornado Cash Ethereum mixer, North Korean hackers have now gravitated towards the Sinbad mixing service as a preferred method.

June witnessed a particularly high-profile incident where hackers targeted Atomic Wallet users, resulting in the pilferage of approximately $100 million in various cryptocurrencies. TRM Labs’ revelations showcase the hackers’ sophisticated modus operandi—stolen Ethereum was redirected to new addresses under the hackers’ control and then laundered into other cryptocurrencies through mixing services to obfuscate the trail further.

TRM Labs, backed by a team including former members of law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL, emphasizes the critical need for robust cybersecurity measures. Hardware security modules, the allowlisting of addresses, and secure offline storage for cryptographic keys and passphrases are touted as pivotal defenses against these relentless cyber threats.

As North Korean hackers continue to thrive in the crypto sphere, their lucrative endeavors underscore the pressing need for vigilance and security reinforcement. The intricate dance between cybercriminals and cybersecurity experts showcases the ever-evolving nature of this conflict, further emphasizing the importance of a resilient and proactive approach to safeguarding the digital realm.


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