In a concerning revelation, North Korean state-affiliated hacking groups have pilfered a staggering $340 million worth of cryptocurrencies this year, targeting crypto exchanges and web3 applications. This startling information comes from a recent report by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, underscoring these cybercriminals’ relentless pursuit of illicit gains.
The tally of these thefts adds to an alarming record of $1.6 billion in ill-gotten gains from North Korea-linked hacks in 2022, emphasizing the gravity of the situation. For North Korea, cybercrime has become a substantial revenue stream, providing a lifeline for its heavily sanctioned economy. Interestingly, the report notes a slight shift, with an estimated 30% of cryptocurrency hacks in 2023 attributed to the regime, down from 43% in the previous year.
Notably, last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made a significant revelation, linking North Korea to the theft of a substantial $41 million cryptocurrency from Stake.com, a prominent crypto casino. This incident underscored the audacity and capabilities of North Korean hackers in targeting high-value crypto assets. Additionally, it has been recently disclosed that North Korean hackers were the culprits behind a massive $54 million hack of the crypto exchange CoinEx, as revealed by on-chain investigator ZachXBT.
The nefarious activities of North Korean hacking groups have been ongoing for some time. In one of the largest heists of the previous year, U.S. officials conclusively determined that Lazarus, a North Korean hacker collective, orchestrated a theft amounting to a staggering $625 million from the Ronin Network. The Ronin Network is intricately connected to the popular NFT game Axie Infinity, making the hack a high-profile incident in the crypto world.
The Chainalysis report delves deeper into the trail of stolen funds, revealing that Lazarus shifted the proceeds of a $100 million hack of the Harmony blockchain bridge earlier this year to crypto exchanges in Russia, known for their involvement in money laundering activities. This finding raises concerns about the collaboration between North Korean hackers and Russian trading platforms. Analysts point out that North Korean hackers have been increasingly drawn to Russian exchanges since 2021, owing to the country’s track record of non-compliance with international law enforcement efforts.
As cybercriminals continue refining their tactics and targeting high-value assets, cryptocurrency remains a lucrative but dangerous space. Efforts to combat these threats require ongoing vigilance and collaboration on a global scale to safeguard the integrity of the digital financial ecosystem.