/North Korean Hackers Stole $400M In 2021, Mostly ETH: Chainalysis
North Korean Hackers Stole $400M In 2021, Mostly ETH: Chainalysis

North Korean Hackers Stole $400M In 2021, Mostly ETH: Chainalysis

North Korean hackers have nearly doubled their heists since 2019 by amassing $400 million in crypto via cyberattack in 2021.

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Hackers norcoreanos robaron USD 400 millones en 2021, sobre todo ETH: Chainalysis

North Korean hackers siphoned nearly $400 million worth of cryptocurrencies through cyberattacks in 2021, according to new data from Chainalysis.

The type of cryptocurrencies stolen has also undergone a radical change, according to the report dated 13 blockchain analytics firm jan. In 2017, BTC accounted for almost all of the cryptocurrencies stolen by the DPRK, but now it accounts for only a fifth:

“In 2021, only the 20% of the stolen funds were Bitcoin, while 22% were ERC-20 tokens or altcoins. And for the first time, Ether accounted for the majority of stolen funds, at 58%.”

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The report stated that attacks in 2021 from North Korea (DPRK) were primarily targeting “investment companies and centralized exchanges, and used phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering” to maliciously acquire funds.

According to a UN Security Council report, it is believed that the DPRK uses stolen cryptocurrencies to evade economic sanctions and to help finance nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The threat posed by the DPRK to global cryptocurrency platforms is growing. Chainalysis now refers to hackers from the Hermit Kingdom, such as the Lazarus Group, as advanced persistent threats (APTs). These threats have been on the rise in the last three years, following the all-time high of over $500 million in cryptocurrency stolen in 2018.

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Chainalysis reported that the funds were meticulously laundered. Methods range from chain hopping, the ‘Peel Chain’ method, and more recently hackers have employed a complicated coin swapping and mixing system.

The mixers were used in more than 65% of stolen funds in 2021, which is a 3x increase from 2019. A mixer is a software-based privacy system that allows users to hide the origin and destination of the coins they send. Decentralized exchanges (DEX) are increasingly preferred by hackers as they are permissionless and have ample liquidity to trade coins at will of the user.

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Chainalysis used the August 19, 2021 hack at Liquid.com, in which $91 million in cryptocurrency was stolen, as an example of the typical way in which RPD hackers launder funds. They first traded ERC-20 coins for Ether (ETH) on decentralized exchanges. The ETH was then sent to a mixer and exchanged for Bitcoin (BTC), which was also mixed. Lastly, BTC was being sent from the mixer to centralized exchanges in Asia as a likely fiat off-ramp.

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