- North Korea’s state-sponsored hacker groups were behind a third of all crypto thefts in 2022, stealing up to $700 million through cyberattacks with evolving tactics to avoid authorities.
- North Korea continues finding new ways to exploit and launder stolen digital assets to bypass economic sanctions, even as the US cracks down on crypto mixers.
- The regime’s rampant crypto theft has spurred calls for increased regulation and vigilance against the illicit use of digital assets globally.
North Korea has ramped up its cyberattacks and crypto thefts. They have stolen over $3 billion in digital assets since 2017, with 2023 seeing their biggest heist yet.
North Korean Groups Behind a Third of All Crypto Hacks
According to a report by blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs, hacker groups tied to North Korea were responsible for roughly 33% of all cryptocurrency stolen through cyberattacks last year. The country’s hackers potentially stole up to $700 million in crypto in 2023, with at least $600 million confirmed stolen.
Constantly Evolving Tactics to Evade Authorities
North Korea’s money laundering tactics are continuously adapting to avoid crackdowns by international law enforcement. The hackers typically steal private keys or seed phrases to hijack wallets, before swapping for Tether or Tron to obscure transactions. Despite some progress in cybersecurity and cooperation between exchanges, North Korea’s hacking skills continue to threaten businesses and governments globally.
Exploring New Options As Authorities Sanction Mixers
The United States Treasury has imposed sanctions on North Korean hacking groups, including Lazarus. With the department also sanctioning crypto mixers like Tornado Cash, North Korea has been investigating alternative money laundering tools. The regime remains committed to exploiting digital assets to bypass economic restrictions.
Calls For Tighter Regulation and Vigilance Against Illicit Crypto Activity
North Korea’s rampant crypto theft has led to calls for tighter oversight and vigilance against the illicit use of digital assets. US officials have cited crypto in justifying sanctions on groups like Hamas. Meanwhile, the focus on regulating privacy technologies indicates that authorities believe the space enables illegal behavior. The threat of North Korean hackers is unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.