North Korean Hackers Steal $200 Million In Crypto, TRM Labs Reports
- North Korean hackers stole over $200M in cryptocurrency this year.
- Hackers launder money through DeFi attacks and mixing services.
- TRM Labs found North Korea supports Sinbad mixing service for laundering.
TRM Labs reports that North Korean hackers have stolen more than $200 million in cryptocurrency this year, accounting for more than 20% of all stolen cryptocurrency for the year.
North Korea has emerged as a major player in the world of cryptocurrency theft, according to a report by TRM Labs. The report states that North Korean hackers have stolen over $200 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2023, accounting for more than 20% of all stolen crypto this year.
The hackers are known to launder their illicit gains by attacking decentralized finance protocols and using mixing services. According to Wu Blockchain, North Korea strongly prefers the mixing service Sinbad.
Over the past five years, North Korean hackers have stolen more than $2 billion in cryptocurrency in over 30 attacks, according to the report. While some reports have suggested that North Korea has stolen as much as $3 billion in crypto since 2018, TRM Labs believes this figure likely includes multiple large hacks misattributed to North Korea.
The report suggests that North Korean cyberattacks have been highly successful, with their hacks in 2023 being ten times larger than attacks by other actors. The hackers have been opportunistic in their targets and methods, using an array of target and exploit types to achieve unprecedented gains.
In recent years, North Korea has almost exclusively targeted the decentralized finance ecosystem, with cross-chain bridges being a particular focus. The hackers exploit vulnerabilities in the crypto ecosystem through phishing and supply chain attacks, as well as infrastructure hacks that involve private key or seed phrase compromises.
The report notes that while North Korea’s targets and techniques have evolved, so have their on-chain laundering methodologies. North Korea’s early exploits involved the direct use of cryptocurrency exchanges, but now feature highly complex, multi-stage money laundering processes in response to more aggressive sanctions and law enforcement focus.
One notable example of North Korean hacking is the 2023 hack on Atomic Wallet, which stole approximately $100 million worth of cryptocurrency from over 4,100 individual addresses. The hackers drained victims’ wallets on various blockchains and laundered the funds through a range of complex techniques, including mixers and cross-chain swaps.
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