A TRM Labs report has suggested that hackers affiliated with North Korea were involved in a third of all crypto thefts in 2023, totalling to about $600 million. Blockchain analysts believe that the country’s total take from crypto in the last six years has gone over $3 billion.
US National Security Officers Find This Report a Bit Concerning
National security officers from the US find the numbers worrying as they believe that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could use the crypto money to fund nuclear weapon projects.
Ari Redbord, the head of legal and government affairs at TRM Labs, spoke to Coindesk and said that the $600 million is 30% smaller than in 2022. He noted that in 2022, actors affiliated with North Korea made $850 million, most of which came from the exploitation of the Ronin Bridge.
Maaliskuussa 2022, Axie Infinityn Ronin Network announced that it was hit with a $625 million loss in a hack involving the theft of Ethereum (ETH) ja USDC. While speaking about the actions in 2023, Redbord noted that a huge chunk of the money came in the last few months of the year.
He also added that these actors are clearly attacking the crypto ecosystem and “continue to take advantage of sort of weak cyber controls.” In terms of the types of attacks, Redbord noted that a majority of the attacks include social engineering in which they gain access to private keys.
Rodberg concluded by saying that the hackers related to North Korea are different from others because they are not driven by “greed or money or the typical hacker mentality.” Instead, they are likely using the funds for various types of “destabilizing activity.” Including the development of nuclear weapons.
TRM Labs reports that North Korea-related hackers have stolen $3 billion between 2018 and 2023. Hackers are also evolving in terms of the techniques, targets and patterns related to money laundering. In June 2023, North Korean hackers targeted Atomic Wallet users and managed to steal around $100 million.
The company’s report concluded that as the tactics of these hackers continue to evolve, it is crucial to find more effective ways to track stolen funds, especially if the thefts are related to criminal activities such as weapon development.
A 2019 Confidential UN Report Included the Same Rogue Activities
Back in 2019, a confidential report by the United Nations came to the conclusion that North Korea is funding weapons of mass destruction via cryptocurrency thefts from various exchanges and banks.
Back at that time, independent experts who researched the report noted that North Korea managed to steal around $2 billion from around 17 nations. The hackers operated under the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is an intelligence agency that deals with clandestine operations.
Furthermore, South Korean agencies pointed towards North Korea when investigating a major hack of the Coincheck exchange in Japan. That hack led to the theft of around $500 million in cryptocurrency.