According to a recent analysis, the Pyongyang-led cybercrime organization – the Lazarus Group – employs advanced techniques to steal and launder cryptocurrencies. The gang has shown “remarkable adaptation to evolving regulation,” the report warned.
North Korea and Crypto
While China and Russia traditionally captivate the attention of most democratic governments concerned about cyber security, totalitarian North Korea is gradually emerging as a leader in such attacks.
In its most recent report, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) warned about a Pyongyang-led cybercrime organization known as the Lazarus Group. The latter has transformed from a “rogue team of hackers to a masterful army of cybercriminals and foreign affiliates” that steal hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crypto, the analysis added.
The CNAS reminded that the infamous organization swiped around $300 million worth of digital assets in 2020 from the Singapore-based exchange KuCoin. The US think tank also pointed out the “sophisticated” hacking techniques deployed by the gang:
“This major intrusion included a range of sophisticated hacking and laundering techniques, including a professional mixing service and the use of new DeFi platforms in an attempt to obfuscate the activity.”
However, the Lazarus Group did not sufficiently mix the stolen assets, making it relatively easy for law enforcement to trace the attack:
“Although the hackers used different Bitcoin addresses to move the stolen funds, they still combined them into a handful of clusters, making it easier to link their ownership to a single origin.”
According to another analysis conducted by Chainalysis, North Korean cyber criminals stole almost $400 million worth of crypto in 2021 alone. The bad actors have collected the funds after attacking digital asset exchanges and investment firms.
Bitcoin accounted for 20% of the stolen assets, while Ether made up more than half of the total loot with 58%. The remaining 22% belonged to other altcoins and ERC-20 tokens.
Crypto Fuels Missile Programs
Despite the numerous sanctions from the USA, North Korea is still reportedly working on its nuclear weapons. Earlier this month, the United Nations (UN) accused the Asian state of funding its missile trials with stolen digital assets.
The organization stated that North Korea launched nine nuclear experiments in January alone, the largest number of tests in the nation’s weapons history carried out in a single month.
“DPRK demonstrated increased capabilities for rapid deployment, wide mobility (including at sea), and improved resilience of its missile forces,” the UN alerted.
Nonetheless, China and Russia refused to sign the statement accusing North Korea of launching such programs.