North Korean cybercriminals stole $400 million in crypto in 2021, mostly ETH

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2022-01-18 08:41:52

North Korean hackers extracted nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency through various cyberattacks in 2021.

North Korean cybercriminals stole $400 million in crypto in 2021, mostly ETH

Based on a report released on January 13 from Chainalysis, North Korean cybercriminals have had a “successful year,” launching at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms, taking away nearly 400 million USD, an increase of nearly 40% compared to 2020. Besides, the classification of hacked cryptocurrencies has also had a big change.

Total damage in dollars from North Korean attacks over the years.  Source: Chainalysis
Total damage in dollars from North Korean attacks over the years. Source: Chainalysis

In 2017, Bitcoin took almost the entire market share, but now BTC is only at 20%. 22% are ERC-20 tokens or other altcoins. For the first time in history, Ethereum (ETH) accounts for up to 58%.

Classification of coins stolen by North Korea over the years.  Source: Chainalysis
Classification of coins stolen by North Korea over the years. Source: Chainalysis

The data clearly states that the 2021 attacks from North Korea mainly targeted investment firms and centralized exchanges, and used phishing and malware code exploitation to blatant misappropriation of property.

The increasing number of cryptocurrencies being hacked has increased the complexity of North Korea’s money laundering. One of the two main forms of popularity is through crypto mixers and the DeFi space.

Forms of money laundering through crypto in North Korea over the years.  Source: Chainalysis
Forms of money laundering through crypto in North Korea over the years. Source: Chainalysis

Mixers are software tools that aggregate and shuffle cryptocurrencies from thousands of different addresses, for the purpose of concealing the origin. Mixing is usually done by pooling multiple funds together within a certain timeframe, then moving them to new addresses. Since funds are pooled and then redistributed at random times, it is difficult to track exactly how much money is laundered.

In addition, DeFi platforms such as DEXs provide liquidity for a wide range of ERC-20 tokens and altcoins, which may not be convertible to cash. When North Korea swaps these coins for ETH or BTC, it becomes much more liquid.

Furthermore, DEXs do not manage user funds and collect no KYC (KYC), which means that cybercriminals can use these platforms without freezing their assets or identities. . In 2021, DeFi also suffered a loss of up to $1.4 billion from hacks.

However, according to another report by the United Nations Security Council, the cryptocurrency stolen by North Korea will be used to evade economic sanctions as well as help fund weapons programs. country’s nuclear and ballistic missiles.

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