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According to Coincub, the country has over 15 documented instances of crypto crime, with proceeds conservatively estimated at $1.59 billion. The other top four countries closely following the hermit kingdom are the US, Russia, China, and the UK.
North Korea Reigns Supreme
Even though the true extent of North Korea’s contribution to global crypto crime rates is unknown, Coincub stated that DPRK’s cyber program is large and well-organized.
A vast majority of citizens in the country struggle with food insecurity and undernutrition, and lack of access to basic services. They do not have access to the global internet. Yet the country has become a hacking superpower.
Economically isolated from the rest of the world, North Korea has managed to birth a breed of hackers that have spearheaded some of the most catastrophic breaches. When it comes to crypto crime, skilled North Korean hackers have stolen funds for the country’s weapons programs by carrying out a series of profitable cyberattacks.
The report suggests that all attacks originating from the DPRK are likely state-sponsored because internet access is controlled exclusively by Pyongyang. The country’s cyber army has targeted governments and private organizations across the world, the proceeds of which are poured into the national defense budget.
The crypto industry saw a major turning point in 2020-2021. It was during this time that a UN report claimed that North Korean hackers stole over and launched seven further attacks on such platforms to help fund their nuclear program. Cryptocurrency is one of the main sources of internet-based income generation in the country, and due to comprehensive international sanctions, all such transactions are fraudulent.
South Korean exchanges remain the most targeted. Bithumb, for one, was attacked four times by DPRK’s hackers. In total, the latter pocketed $60 million.
State-backed hacker group – Lazarus Group – was behind some of the biggest exploits in the last decades, including the Sony attack in 2014. The WannaCry hack was yet another stunt by the group that led to a massive ransomware cyberattack hitting institutions across the world in 2017.
The attack lasted for over 7 hours affecting around 200,000 computers in 150 countries. The main targets were Russia, India, Ukraine, and Taiwan. More recently, the group drained more than $620 million from Axie Infinity’s Ronin bridge earlier this year.
DPRK’s cyber program, which reportedly consists of 7,000 employees and operations in more than 150 countries, is likely to have conducted many heists that were never proven. With the rapid shift in the crypto space, DPRK’s hackers have also adapted to Web3 and are currently targeting DeFi, as per several US government agencies.
Crypto Winter and North Korea’s Stolen Crypto Stash
One of the world’s most brutal and authoritarian regimes may have been leading in crypto crime, but the recent market downturn, its ill-gotten stash of coins and tokens.
As reported by CryptoPotato recently, the market-wide rout has hit the malicious entities in North Korea as well. The relentless declines in the crypto markets may have affected North Korea’s ability to carry out more heists and hacks on the sector.