North Korea Hackers Swipe $600M in 2023 Crypto Heist

Jan. 6, 2024
North Korea Hackers Swipe $600M in 2023 Crypto Heist

Groups affiliated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) committed approximately one-third of all crypto thefts through hacks in 2023, as reported by TRM Labs on January 5. North Korean hackers might have raided about $700 million in digital assets during the year, with $600 million confirmed by TRM Labs research.

In the record of these incidents to the TRM Labs, they added up to a broader trend suggesting that DPRK-linked hackers have walked away with an estimated $3bn in cryptocurrency since 2017. Thus, the events marked an escalation in targeting digital assets, indicating an increased focus on cryptos to exploit vulnerabilities in the cryptocurrency’s ecosystem.

TRM Labs emphasized how the tactics used by North Korean hackers in money laundering continue to evolve, being one step ahead of the international efforts of law enforcement. The report describes how hackers often rely on compromised private keys or user seed phrases. They transfer the funds into wallets controlled by the DPRK and then convert these assets into Tether, a stablecoin.

North Korean Cyber Threats Surge in 2024

The firm restated that businesses and governments must remain vigilant and innovative in confronting North Korea’s hacking. Despite improvements in the cybersecurity profile at exchanges and increased international collaborations to track and retrieve stolen funds, TRM Labs warns that cyber threats are expected to bring more turbulence in 2024.

The bank’s actions align with the United States Treasury Department’s imposition of sanctions. These sanctions target individuals and hacking groups, such as Lazarus, allegedly linked to North Korea. Despite imposing sanctions on cryptocurrency mixers like Tornado Cash and Sinbad, the DPRK actively explores alternative laundering instruments. TRM Labs reportedly provided this information.

On January 3, CertiK, a blockchain security firm, reported that in 2023, there were about 751 breaches. These breaches resulted in the loss of over $1.8 billion of cryptocurrency. A third of these losses were attributed to hackers linked to DPRK.

The Ethereum network recorded the highest losses, amounting to $686 million over 224 incidents. U.S. officials have indeed cited digital assets as reasons to impose sanctions. They targeted certain entities, such as the terrorist group Hamas, following an October 7 attack on Israel.

Members of Congress have also accused crypto mixers of being major facilitators in using the technology for criminal purposes. The increasing threats by North Korean hackers bring out different challenges. Cryptocurrencies face issues regarding implementing security measures and protecting digital assets.

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Ammar Raza

Associate editor
Skilled in crafting compelling content, with a deep enthusiasm for blockchain technology. I offer precise and easily comprehensible perspectives on cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance, and the ever-evolving landscape. Count on me as a reliable resource to remain informed about the latest advancements in the world of crypto.