North Korean crypto hackers siphoned off nearly $400 million in crypto through cyber attacks in 2021 according to new data from Chainalysis.
The type of crypto stolen has also seen a sea change according to the Jan. 13 report from the blockchain analytics firm. In 2017, BTC accounted for nearly all the crypto stolen by the DPRK, but it now accounts for just one fifth:
“In 2021, only 20% of the stolen funds were Bitcoin, whereas 22% were either ERC-20 tokens or altcoins. And for the first time ever, Ether accounted for a majority of the funds stolen at 58%.”
The report stated that attacks in 2021 from North Korea (DPRK) primarily targeted “investment firms and centralized exchanges, and made use of phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering” to maliciously acquire the funds.
The threat that the DPRK presents to global crypto platforms has become ever-present. Chainalysis now refers to hackers from the Hermit Kingdom, such as Lazarus Group, as advanced persistent threats (APT). These threats have been on the increase over the past three years, following the all-time high of over $500 million in crypto stolen in 2018.
Chainalysis reported that the funds were meticulously laundered. Methods range from chain hopping, the ‘Peel Chain’ method, and more recently the hackers have employed a complicated system of coin swaps and mixing.
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