North Korea is accused of amassing over $700 million worth of cryptocurrency through state-sponsored hacking operations, according to a report by blockchain analysis firm TRM Labs.
- North Korean entities stole over $600 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2023 alone, though the actual figure may be closer to $700 million.
- The thefts appear to support North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
- In response, the U.S. has sanctioned North Korean crypto initiatives like the Lazarus Group and crypto mixer Sinbad.
- Over the past two years, North Korea has stolen approximately $1.5 billion in cryptocurrency through increasingly sophisticated techniques.
- Despite improvements in cybersecurity and international cooperation, more crypto-related hacks from North Korea are expected in 2024.
State-Sponsored Crypto Thefts
The TRM Labs report found that North Korean entities hacked numerous cryptocurrency platforms and exchanges in 2023 to fund the country’s military ambitions. The thefts target Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Tether among other cryptocurrencies.
The U.S. Treasury has sanctioned several North Korean crypto-related initiatives in response, including Lazarus Group – a suspected state-sponsored hacking group – and crypto mixing service Sinbad.
Increased International Vigilance Needed
Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said these actions threaten international security and stability. The U.S. and its partners aim to prevent financial system abuse for North Korea’s destabilizing activities, including its ICBM tests in 2023.
According to experts, North Korea’s cryptocurrency thefts are at least ten times larger than those of other countries. Pyongyang constantly evolves its money laundering techniques, complicating the efforts of international law enforcement.
Stopping future hacks will require improved cybersecurity measures from businesses and vigilance from governments worldwide. Nevertheless, more crypto-related disruptions from North Korea are likely in 2024.