June 21, 2024

North Korean Hackers Aren’t Getting Away With As Much Stolen Crypto

  • North Korean-linked crypto hacks hit a record high in 2023, but stolen assets dropped by 41% compared to 2022.
  • Hacks on decentralized finance protocols, once a popular target for cybercriminals, are dwindling.
  • North Korean hacks pose a significant threat to global finance and critical infrastructure. 

Hacks of cryptocurrency platform carried out by North Korean-linked groups surged to a record high in 2023, but the amount of stolen crypto assets slumped considerably compared to 2023, dropping by about 41%. 

Among the 20 hacks by North Korean-affiliated cybercriminals, the total amount of crypto assets snagged was slightly over $1 billion, a $700 million decline from 2022, according to data from Chainalysis released Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, a separate report released by a blockchain intelligence company TRM Labs earlier in January stated that the stolen amount was even less, at $600 million, accounting for almost a third of all funds stolen in crypto attacks in 2023.

“North Korea-linked hacks have been on the rise over the past few years, with cyber-espionage groups such as Kimsuky and Lazarus Group utilizing various malicious tactics to acquire large amounts of crypto assets,” Chainalysis said in a note

Reflecting a decline in North Korea’s successful hacking attempts, there’s been a marked decrease in successful hacks of decentralized finance protocols, once popular targets for cybercriminals. 

In 2023, hackers got away with $1.1 billion from DeFi protocols, marking a 63.7% year-over-year drop in the total value stolen from these platforms, according to Chainalysis.

The report noted that North Korea-associated hackers grabbed about $428.8 million from DeFi platforms in 2023. It also targeted centralized services ($150.0 million stolen), along with exchanges ($330.9 million stolen) and wallet providers ($127.0 million stolen).

North Korea uses cyber crime to pilfer from financial institutions, engaging in disruptive and harmful activities that pose a significant threat to the international financial system, including U.S. critical infrastructure, according to Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The authoritarian regime, disguised as recruiters, IT professionals, and government officials, has illicitly acquired $3 billion in cryptocurrency by deceiving victims.

One of its notable successes occurred in 2021 with the hack of Axie Infinity, where North Korean crypto thieves managed to get away with $600 million from players of the platform’s digital pets game.

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