North Korean hackers said to have stolen nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency last year
New York (CNN Business) North Korean hackers stole nearly $400 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2021, making it one of the most lucrative years to date for cybercriminals in the severely isolated country, according to a new report.
Hackers launched at least seven different attacks last year, primarily targeting investment firms and centralized exchanges with a variety of tactics, including phishing, malware and social engineering, according to the report from Chainalysis, a firm that tracks cryptocurrency.
The cybercriminals worked to gain access to organizations' "hot" wallets — digital wallets that are connected to the internet — and then move funds into DPRK-controlled accounts.
The thefts are the latest indication that the heavily sanctioned country continues to rely on a network of hackers to help fund its domestic programs.
A confidential United Nations report previously accused the regime of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, of conducting "operations against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange houses" to pay for weapons and keep North Korea's economy afloat.
Last February, the US Justice Department charged three North Koreans for conspiring to steal more than $1.3 billion from banks and companies around the world and orchestrating digital heists of cryptocurrency.
"North Korea is, in most respects, cut off from the global financial system by a long sanctions campaign by the US and foreign partners."
said Nick Carlsen, analyst at blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs.
"As a result they have taken to the digital battlefield to steal crypto in, essentially, [a] bank robbery at the speed of the internet, to fund weapons programs, nuclear proliferation and other destabilizing activities."