The hackers in North Korea stole $400 million in Bitcoin and Ethereum in 2021 and the country is still holding about $170 million worth of stolen crypto according to research company Chainalysis so let’s take a closer look in today’s altcoin news.
The hackers in North Korea launched more than seven attacks against crypto platforms last year. These attacks according to Chainalysis, netted about $400 million worth of digital assets. The team said in a blog post:
“Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out.”
In 2020, there were a few North Korea-affiliated hacks compared to the 2021’s seven. The value of the hacks grew by 40% between 2020 and 2021 but it is worth noting that the price of BTC from 2020 to 2021 grew by 303% and the price of ETH grew by 472%. According to the Chainalayis data, Bitcoin accounts for less than a quarter of the North Korean stolen crypto and about 20% of these stolen funds now comprise BTC when measured in the dollar value.
Ethereum on the contrary made the most of the stolen funds for the country and in total, about 58% of the North Korea stolen crypto are now Ethereum. This in turn shines a light on what exactly the country does to launder the stolen funds. According to the reports, the procedure starts by swapping Ethereum-based ERC-20 tokens and other cryptos for ETH at a decentralized exchange. Then, Ethereum is put thorugh a mixer which is a software tool that pools and scrambles crypto from thousands of different addresses. These funds are then swapped for BTC and mixed for a second time and then consolidated in a wallet. The mixed BTC is then sent to deposit addresses at exchanges where crypto can only be converted into a fiat currency.
The strategy is central to North Korea’s crypto empire with 65% of the stolen funds being laundered through mixers in 2021. in 2020 and in 2019, the number was 42% and 21% respectively. One major point in 2021 was the hack of Liquid.com which is a crypto exchange that saw 67 different ERC-20 tokens move to addresses controlled by the North Korean actors. Lazarus Group also led by North Korea’s chief intelligence agency is the main state-backed group of cybercriminals at North Korea’s disposal. The knowledge of this group hit the mainstream after North Korea’s WannaCry and Sony Pictures attacks. Chainalysis reported:
“From 2018 on, the group has stolen and laundered massive sums of virtual currencies every year, typically in excess of $200 million.”
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