North Korea has been focusing part of its financing strategy for several years on attacks and thefts of cryptocurrencies on major platforms, in particular via the Lazarus group. And 2022 was no exception, as the country managed to obtain more than $1 billion worth of cryptocurrencies illicitly, according to a UN report.
North Korea continues to steal large amounts of cryptocurrencies
The United Nations (UN) regularly publishes reports on how the South Korean regime funds its operations, including through cryptocurrency thefts. The latest report, which was consulted by our colleagues at Reuters, indicates that the country has further accelerated its actions in 2022: these are indeed more than a billion dollars worth of cryptocurrencies which were stolen during the year.
It’s a sad record, and it has a purpose: fund North Korea’s nuclear weapons programwho said he wanted a “exponential increase in nuclear arsenalat the beginning of last January. The trend is confirmed by the UN, which explains that the country now has substantial means to conduct its online attacks:
“[La Corée du Nord] uses increasingly sophisticated cyber techniques, both to access digital networks linked to cyber finance, but also to steal information of potential valueincluding with regard to its armament program.»
Within the UN, the report will be submitted to those responsible for the sanctions applying to North Korea. The document notes that the complexity of the techniques used by North Korean hacker groups – including the well-known Lazarus – make tracking transactions more difficult than in the past.
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Large-scale attacks, which have multiplied
The attacks rest on phishing strategies, or the use of malware. International organizations have been targeted, via their employees:
“Initial contact with individuals was made via LinkedIn, and once trust with the target was established, infected files were delivered via WhatsApp.»
North Korea also indulged in ransom demands, targeting small and medium-sized businesses. We also remember that the country would be behind the massive hack of Ronin, the blockchain supporting Axie Infinity. The second largest hack in cryptocurrency history, it allowed attackers to walk away with $600 million in funds. Attacks from North Korea should therefore not cease anytime soon.
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