It is no secret now that North Korea is one of the biggest players in the world of cryptocurrency hacks. What may surprise you is the amount of money Koreans have stolen over the years. According to a report, hackers from the East Asian country have stolen more than $ 1,7 billion worth of cryptocurrencies from exchanges in the United States, neighboring South Korea, Indonesia and other countries.
2 trillion won stolen
North Korea has faced sanctions for most of this millennium from major global powers, including Russia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, the United Kingdom, and others. Some, such as those in the United States, date back more than six decades. Since 2006, the UN has also passed nearly a dozen restrictions against trade with the country.
The effect has been a deterioration in the country's economy as global trading partners have remained far from the Asian country. Cryptocurrencies have been a godsend for North Korea. And while some of them have been through legal means like mining, they have amassed a vast fortune through hacking.
A Newsis report revealed that in recent years, Korean hackers have stolen 2 trillion won ($ 1,7 billion) from stock exchanges around the world. Part of the money goes to finance some weapons programs that the UN has banned, such as nuclear weapons. However, the report claims that the country is appropriating many of the cryptocurrencies it steals.
Hodling has seen Korea amassing a big war chest with cryptocurrencies. Take the 2018 Bithumb hack, when the South Korean stock exchange lost $ 31 million in digital assets, an incident that US authorities linked to North Korean hackers. At the time, BTC was trading at around $ 6.600. If the stolen money was in BTC, it would now be worth $ 189 million, up from $ 31 million initially. If it was in some other cryptocurrency, it is worth more - Dogecoin would be $ 1,97 billion and Binance Coin would be $ 915 million.
North Korean hackers keep Kim Jong Un in power
A report from the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency recently revealed that hackers contribute to a far greater goal than showing their prowess behind the keyboard - they keep North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un in power.
In its report, the US agency revealed that hackers targeted all types of victims in addition to cryptocurrency firms, including central and commercial banks. They steal defense secrets from government agencies, extort money through ransomware, and install crypto-mining malware on victims' devices.
The report stated that:
North Korea has conducted cyber thefts against financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges around the world, potentially stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, likely to fund government priorities, such as its nuclear and missile programs.
The US agency places the collective funds stolen by hackers at $ 2,3 billion. They have been behind some of the biggest malware campaigns of recent years, including AppleJeus who stole $ 316 million and Lazarus who stole $ 275 million.
It's hard enough to fight cybercrime in today's world, but fighting North Korean hackers is a completely different animal. They are trained and protected by the state and with these state resources, they are capable of reinvent itself whenever cyber security experts find out their tricks.
Jenny Jun, a non-resident colleague at the Atlantic Council's Cyber Statecraft Initiative told British newspaper The Sun:
The fight against North Korea's illicit activities is like a whack-a-mole game: breaking down systems will lead to displacement rather than causing [the regime] to stop or focus on legitimate business.