According to the findings of a recent investigation, North Korean hackers managed to steal a fortune in bitcoin in 2021. North Korean cybercriminals extracted roughly $400 million worth of digital assets last year, according to a preview of Chainalysis‘ 2022 Crypto Crime report issued Thursday.

The attacks used phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and complex social engineering to steal assets out of these businesses’ internet-connected hot wallets and into DPRK-controlled addresses, according to a preview of the firm’s 2022 Crypto Crime report.

Many of the attacks are thought to have been carried out by the Lazarus Group, a hacking collective associated to North Korea’s primary intelligence agency. The organization is well known for being behind the 2014 Sony Pictures hack.

The crimes are the latest proof that the heavily sanctioned government continues to rely on a hacking network to support its domestic projects. Previously, a confidential UN investigation accused Kim Jong Un’s leadership of undertaking operations against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange companies in order to pay for weapons and keep North Korea’s economy afloat.

The US Justice Department charged three North Koreans in February with conspiring to steal more than $1.3 billion from banks and organizations around the world, as well as executing bitcoin digital heists.

The soaring value of cryptocurrency has aided North Korea’s hacking operations. The surge in cryptocurrency values and usage has made digital assets more appealing to criminals, resulting in more high-profile crypto heists in 2021.

North Korea has increasingly turned to cryptocurrency hacking as a means of avoiding sanctions that have damaged its economy, according to a UN Security Council study released in 2019. The cash are allegedly being used to help North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.

North Korea has yet to launder $170 million in hacked bitcoin, according to Chainalysis. The monies are said to be the result of 49 distinct hacks that occurred between 2017 and 2021.

Share