North Korea Missile Program Funded With Stolen Crypto: Report
The findings were reportedly passed on to the UN’s sanctions committee on Friday, stating that these attacks have been an “important revenue source” for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.
The researchers discovered that hackers stole more than $50 million in digital assets in a cyber-attack spree between 2020 and mid-2021. At least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe, and Asia were targeted according to reports.
Building Bombs with Crypto
Chainalysis research published in January also alluded to a major haul for North Korean cyber criminals in 2021. The report stated that hackers may have stolen as much as $400 million in at least seven separate attacks during the year.
“These attacks targeted primarily investment firms and centralized exchanges, and made use of phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering to siphon funds out of these organizations’ internet-connected “hot” wallets into DPRK-controlled addresses.”
In 2019, the UN estimated that North Korea had amassed as much as $2 billion from sophisticated cyber-attacks.
In its recent report, the UN admitted that crippling sanctions have not prevented the rogue nation from developing and testing nuclear-capable missiles. In fact, it noted that there had been a “marked acceleration” in weapons testing.
“Although no nuclear tests or launches of ICBMs were reported, DPRK continued to develop its capability for the production of nuclear fissile materials,” the UN stated.
Chainalysis fingered the Lazarus Group for the high-profile hacks, adding that the value extracted from these hacks grew by 40% from 2020 to 2021. For the first time ever, Ethereum (ETH) accounted for most of the pilfered crypto in 2021 with 58%. Stolen Bitcoin (BTC) loot was less than a quarter, it added.
Crypto Crime Climbing
Crypto crime has been increasing which comes as no surprise given the huge gains in prices over the past two years. There have been a number of high-profile exchange hacks but also an increasing wave of decentralized finance exploits.
The most recent of these was an exploit of the Wormhole bridging protocol for the Solana network. The attacker managed to make off with more than $300 million in wrapped Ethereum (wETH) on Feb. 2 making it the second-largest DeFi exploit to date according to DeFi Yield.