Cryptocurrency theft by hackers linked to North Korea has seen a significant drop of 80% in 2023 compared to the staggering numbers reported in 2022. However, a recent report from blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis suggests that this decline may not necessarily indicate improved security or reduced criminal activity. The figures for this year must be considered in the context of the exceptionally high benchmark set in 2022.
As of September 14, 2023, North Korea-linked hackers had stolen approximately $340.4 million worth of cryptocurrency, down from a record $1.65 billion stolen in the previous year. Despite this reduction, Chainalysis warns that the crypto community should remain attentive, as a single large-scale hack could easily push the total stolen funds past the billion-dollar mark for 2023.
As reported by Todayq News over the past ten days alone, North Korea’s Lazarus Group has been linked to two separate hacks, targeting Stake ($40 million) on September 4 and CoinEx ($55 million) on September 12, resulting in losses exceeding $95 million. These attacks accounted for roughly 30% of all cryptocurrency funds stolen in hacks throughout the year.
Erin Plante, Vice President of Investigations at Chainalysis, highlighted the need for cryptocurrency firms to bolster their defenses against these threats by educating employees about countering social engineering tactics frequently employed by hacker groups. She also highlighted that North Korean-linked hackers often exploit human trust and carelessness to gain access to corporate networks, making it compulsory to train teams on recognizing these risks and warning signs.
North Korean hackers have increasingly relied on Russian-based exchanges for laundering illicit funds in recent years. This pattern began in 2021, with one of the largest laundering events involving $21.9 million from Harmony’s $100 million bridge hack in June 2022. Additionally in the last five years, over $2 billion worth of cryptocurrency was stolen by North Korean hackers.
By looking at these activities, the South Korean government is working on a comprehensive bill to track and freeze North Korean cryptocurrency assets, as well as strengthen cybersecurity, as reported by Todayq News. The bill aims to “track and neutralize” virtual assets acquired through hacks, indicating an increased focus on countering North Korean cyberattacks. At the international level, the United Nations is taking steps to curb North Korea’s cybercrime tactics, recognizing that stolen funds may be supporting its nuclear missile program.