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North Korean hackers stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency last year

Following the release of a new report, it has been revealed that North Korean hackers stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency in 2021, making it one of the most lucrative years for cybercriminals in the country's severe isolation to date.

Hackers launched at least seven different attacks on cryptocurrency exchanges and investment firms in 2018, according to a report from Chainalysis, a cryptocurrency tracking company. The attacks used a variety of tactics, including phishing, malware, and social engineering, to target the companies. The cybercriminals attempted to gain access to organizations' "hot" wallets — digital wallets that are connected to the internet — and then transfer funds to accounts controlled by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

They are the most recent indication that the heavily sanctioned country continues to rely on a hacker network to fund domestic programs despite international pressure. The regime in North Korea was previously accused of conducting "operations against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange houses" in order to finance weapons purchases and keep the North Korean economy afloat, according to an unclassified United Nations report.

In February, the United States Justice Department charged three North Koreans with conspiring to steal more than $1.3 billion from banks and businesses around the world, as well as orchestrating cryptocurrency digital heists, according to the Justice Department.

Because of a protracted sanctions campaign waged by the United States and its allies against North Korea, the country has been largely cut off from the global financial system. The opinion of Nick Carlsen, an analyst at TRM Labs, a blockchain intelligence company, is that They have, as a result, turned to the digital battlefield, where they steal cryptocurrency in what amounts to a high-speed bank robbery in order to finance weapons programs, nuclear proliferation, and other destabilizing activities," the report states.

North Korea's hacking efforts have benefited from the recent increase in the value of the cryptocurrency market, according to reports. With the rise in cryptocurrency prices and usage, malicious actors have become more interested in digital assets. As a result, there will be more high-profile crypto heists in 2021.

A hacking group with ties to North Korea, the Lazarus Group, is suspected of being responsible for the vast majority of thefts that occurred last year, according to Chainalysis. The Lazarus Group has previously been linked to a number of incidents, including the Sony Pictures hack, among others. The United States has imposed sanctions on the organization.

Beyond sanctions and defensive cybersecurity measures, the United States and other countries have little practical recourse against North Korean crypto hacking activities because the criminals involved have little chance of being extradited.

Carlsen predicted that the cryptocurrency market would continue to gain traction, and that North Korea would continue to show an interest in targeting young crypto businesses that are developing cyber defenses and anti-money laundering controls.

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