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North Korean hackers stole $2B of crypto since 2018.

In 2023, TRM Labs approximates that North Korean hackers exclusively pilfered $200 million worth of cryptocurrency.

Over the past five years, North Korean hackers have remained a persistent threat to the cryptocurrency ecosystem, having successfully stolen an estimated $2 billion worth of crypto.

TRM Labs, a blockchain intelligence firm, recently conducted an in-depth analysis of cryptocurrency-related hacking and shed light on the activities of North Korean cybercriminals.

According to their findings, in 2023 alone, North Korea has managed to pilfer approximately $200 million of cryptocurrency,

accounting for 20% of all stolen funds this year.

What sets North Korean cyberattacks apart is their scale, estimated to be ten times larger than those orchestrated by other malicious actors.

These hackers have also focused their attention on the decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem,

exploiting vulnerabilities in cross-chain bridges that facilitate a substantial volume of cryptocurrency transfers.

The continuous activities of North Korean hackers underscore the need for heightened security measures within the cryptocurrency industry to protect against such threats.

North Korean Hackers: Cross-Chain Hacks and Evolving Money Laundering Tactics

In 2022, a series of cross-chain hacks shook the cryptocurrency world, with the most notable being the Axie Infinity Ronin Bridge hack,

resulting in a staggering $650 million worth of crypto being stolen.

Surprisingly, North Korean hackers took responsibility for approximately $800 million of the total stolen funds in three separate attacks during that year.

These cyberattacks employed various methods, including phishing and supply chain attacks that involved compromising private keys and seed phrases.

Notably, TRM Labs, a leading blockchain intelligence firm, highlights the increasing sophistication of North Korean hackers in utilizing on-chain laundering techniques.

In the past, hackers typically cashed out stolen cryptocurrency through cryptocurrency exchanges.

However, hackers have now developed intricate and multi-stage money laundering processes to obfuscate their tracks.

These developments can be attributed to the growing effectiveness of sanctions imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control,

intensified law enforcement operations, and advancements in blockchain tracing tools.

TRM Labs specifically analyzed the Atomic Wallet hack of 2023,

shedding light on the evolving obfuscation methods employed by hackers hailing from the sanctioned state of North Korea.

These incidents underscore the continuous need for robust security measures within the cryptocurrency industry,

as hackers adapt and refine their techniques in response to countermeasures and evolving regulatory efforts.

In June 2023, a significant cybersecurity incident unfolded with noncustodial wallet provider Atomic Wallet falling victim to hackers.

The attackers successfully pilfered a staggering $100 million worth of cryptocurrency from approximately 4,100 addresses.

TRM Labs, a prominent blockchain intelligence firm,

suggests that hackers likely made the exploit possible through a phishing or supply chain attack.

The hackers targeted user wallets across multiple blockchains,

including Ethereum, Tron, Bitcoin, XRP, Dogecoin, Stellar, and Litecoin.

To cover their tracks, they swiftly transferred the stolen funds to new wallets.

To further complicate the tracing of the stolen assets, the hackers utilized decentralized exchanges to convert ERC-20 and TRC-20 tokens into Ether and Tron, respectively.

Subsequently, they employed a combination of automated programs, mixers,

and cross-chain swaps in their money laundering process.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the evolving techniques employed by hackers to obfuscate their activities and launder stolen cryptocurrency.

The use of decentralized exchanges and cross-chain swaps highlights the growing complexity of their operations,

making it increasingly challenging to track and recover the stolen funds.

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