North Korean Hackers Steal $200M In 2023

In 2023, North Korean hackers have orchestrated a staggering heist of over $200 million in cryptocurrency, constituting more than 20% of the total stolen crypto for the year, reveals a recent report by blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs. This disturbing revelation highlights the persistent threat posed by cybercriminals and the need for heightened cybersecurity measures.

Hacking Escalation

TRM Labs disclosed that the cumulative value of stolen cryptocurrencies over the past five years has surged to a daunting $2 billion, underlining the escalating audacity and sophistication of hacking attempts. Notably, the most prosperous year for hackers was the preceding one, with a jaw-dropping haul of over $800 million in crypto stolen. This milestone was achieved by exploiting decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols, with three major attacks targeting cross-chain bridges. A staggering $625 million was siphoned from the Ronin Bridge in a brazen March attack.

The modus operandi of North Korean hackers is multifaceted. After pilfering the funds, they employ various tactics to launder the proceeds, including chain hopping and mixing, before swiftly cashing out through exchanges with lax Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) protocols. Following the sanctioning of cryptocurrency mixing service Tornado Cash by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the hackers have reportedly switched allegiance to Sinbad as their preferred mixing service.

Check out Catcoin on CMC

Cybersecurity Amidst Crypto Crime

June witnessed another audacious attack by the hackers, targeting Atomic Wallet users and fleecing around $100 million in a range of cryptocurrencies. The stolen Ethereum was cleverly funnelled to new addresses controlled by the hackers, transformed via wrapped Ether (WETH) and wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC), and eventually laundered through mixing services to obscure the funds’ origin.

Related: Harbor Protocol Exploited

TRM Labs, based in San Francisco, is spearheaded by experts from law enforcement agencies worldwide, such as INTERPOL, the Australian Federal Police, and the FBI. Their investigations have prompted them to emphasize the crucial role of robust cybersecurity practices. The significance of hardware security modules, whitelisting addresses for trusted transactions, and the necessity of secure offline storage for cryptographic keys and passphrases are being underscored. With other blockchain investigation entities like Peck Shield, Chainalysis, and CipherTrace also at the forefront of cybercrime prevention, the battle against cryptocurrency theft continues. Recently, Peck Shield flagged an ongoing assault on the Exactly protocol, a credit market on the Optimism network, reporting a staggering hack of 4323.6 ETH (approximately $7.2 million).