North Korea stole a record $400 million in cryptocurrency last year, researchers say

North Korea stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrencies, especially ether, in 2021, researchers found, showing that its national strategy of hacking and laundering digital currency remains successful.

The isolated country beset by sanctions from the United States and other countries long-term dependence Its army of hackers broke into financial institutions around the world to steal funds. In recent years, these hackers have increasingly focused on companies that handle and trade cryptocurrencies, which are stored in digital wallets and can easily be sent around the world if hackers gain access.

One last year’s report of the United Nations North Korea was found to have hacked and stole $316 million in virtual assets between 2019 and 2020 for use in its nuclear weapons program.

The tactic was particularly effective last year, according to researchers at Chainalysis, a firm that monitors transactions on the blockchain, a public record that tracks all transactions in most cryptocurrencies. Hackers in North Korea successfully breached at least seven cryptocurrency exchanges and laundered money, the company said.

The value of many cryptocurrencies has risen dramatically in recent years, and software developers have created an entire ecosystem of projects and exchanges that allow users to exchange one cryptocurrency for another, or from virtual currencies to cash. While many major exchanges follow guidelines for collecting user information to combat money laundering, the internet is also full of do-nots, opening doors for malicious actors such as North Korean hackers.

according to Research North Korea has a dedicated team of hackers that has been steadily attacking small and medium-sized companies dealing with cryptocurrencies and related projects, according to a Thursday release from cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.Such a company is frequent target For hackers who steal records $14 billion Cryptocurrencies last year.

Unlike many criminals who accept cryptocurrency, North Korea is in no rush to convert it to traditional currency immediately, said Erin Plante, senior director of investigations at Chainalysis and author of the report.

Instead, it takes advantage of the fact that major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have appreciated in value in recent years to continuously launder a modest amount of hacked cryptocurrencies while keeping around $170 million from old hackers.

“They’re very strategic. They’re not going to rush to cash,” Plante said. “They’re looking for bigger numbers” because they’re waiting, she said.

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