North Korean Hackers Lazarus Group Stolen $3B in Cryptocurrency

North Korea-linked hacker organization Lazarus Group has stolen $3 billion in cryptocurrency over the past six years, according to a report by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. $1.1 billion was stolen from decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms.

A September report published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as part of its Analytic Exchange Program (AEP) also highlighted Lazarus’s exploitation of DeFi protocols. The U.S. Treasury Department introduced new sanctions against North Korea’s cyber activities, adding ‘Sinbad’ to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s specially designated sanctions list.

Sinbad has been implicated in laundering the cryptocurrencies stolen by the Lazarus Group. The group is known to have used Sinbad’s mixer services to hide the origins of the stolen funds. Such mixers obscure individual transaction trails by blending multiple users’ transactions. In 2018,

they hacked the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck, diverted $530 million, and attacked the Central Bank of Malaysia, stealing $390 million.

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North Korean hackers have pilfered $3B of crypto over past six years: Report

According to United States cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, North Korean hackers have stolen around $3 billion in cryptocurrency since 2017, with more than half of that amount stolen in the past year alone. Furthermore, the stolen amount surpasses the total annual income from exports for the nation by a considerable margin.

“This amount is also almost 10 times more than the value of North Korea’s exports in 2021, which sat at $182 million,” the report stated. It was noted that support from the North Korean government has led to a significant expansion in the scale of the illicit operation. “State backing allows North Korean threat actors to scale their operations beyond what is possible for traditional cybercriminals,” the report declared.

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According to a UN report, cyber attacks were more sophisticated in 2022 than in previous years, making tracing stolen funds more difficult than ever. Meanwhile, blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis labelled the cybercriminal syndicates as the most “prolific cryptocurrency hackers over the last few years.”

Additionally, Chainalysis noted that North Korea-linked hackers were moving funds through crypto mixers such as Tornado Cash and Sinbad at a much higher rate than other criminal groups.