Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Analysis firm says North Korean-linked hacks jumped from four in 2020 to seven in 2021.

North Korea has launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms that extracted nearly $ 400 million worth of digital assets last year, one of its most successful years on record, blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis said in a new report.

“From 2020 to 2021, the number of North Korean-linked hacks jumped from four to seven, and the value gained from these hacks grew by 40 percent,” the report, released Thursday, said.

“Once North Korea obtained custody of the funds, they began a meticulous money laundering process to cover up and pay out,” the report added.

A panel of United Nations experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea has accused Pyongyang of using stolen funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to circumvent sanctions.

North Korea does not respond to media inquiries, but has previously released statements denying allegations of burglary.

Last year the United States has charged three North Korean computer programmers works for the country’s intelligence service with a huge, years-long burglary effort aimed at stealing more than $ 1.3 billion in money and cryptocurrencies, affecting companies from banks to Hollywood movie studios.

Chainalysis did not identify all the targets of the hacks, but said it was mainly investment firms and centralized exchanges, including Liquid.com, that announced in August that an unauthorized user had gained access to some of the cryptocurrency wallets that he drove.

The attackers used phishing bait, code exploitation, malware and advanced social engineering to extract funds from these organizations’ Internet-linked “hot” wallets to North Korea-controlled addresses, the report said.

‘Careful plan’

Many of last year’s attacks were probably carried out by the Lazarus Group, a U.S.-approved burglary group that says it is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence bureau.

The group has been accused of involvement in the “WannaCry” ransomware attacks, hacking of international banks and customer accounts, and the 2014 cyberattacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment.

North Korea has also apparently stepped up efforts to steal stolen cryptocurrencies, significantly increasing its use of mixers, or software tools that aggregate and confuse cryptocurrencies from thousands of addresses, Chainalysis said.

The report said researchers identified $ 170 million in old, unwashed cryptocurrencies from 49 separate hacks spanning from 2017 to 2021.

The report said it was unclear why the hackers would still be sitting on these funds, but said they could hope to outwit law enforcement interest before paying out.

“Whatever the reason, the length of time (North Korea) is willing to stick to these funds is enlightening because it indicates a cautious plan, not a desperate and hasty one,” he said. Chainalysis closed.

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