Crypto Heists and Threats: The Growing Role of North Korea and Russia

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According to a recent report from Chainalysis, the total value of cryptocurrency theft has touched an astounding $3.54 billion.

North Korea: The Cybercrime Epicenter With Help From Russia

North Korea stands out as a significant hub for hacking, posing a colossal threat in the cybercrime arena.

Interestingly, hacking groups linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) increasingly exploit Russia-based exchanges infamous for laundering illicit crypto assets.

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These findings surfaced the same week leaders Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un engaged in military discussions. The international community is increasingly concerned about DPRK’s advanced cybercrime methods supporting its missile initiatives.

Recent data highlighted a $21.9 million transfer of cryptocurrency, stolen from the Harmony Protocol, to a dubious Russian exchange.

This development underscores the intensifying alliance between the digital underbellies of Russia and North Korea. The likelihood of retrieving stolen assets from non-compliant Russian exchanges must be higher.

North Korea’s Cryptocurrency Plunder

Staggeringly, stolen cryptocurrency linked to North Korean hacking entities like Lazarus has crossed the $340 million mark this year. This, although impressive, falls short of last year’s staggering $1.65 billion. 2022 was notable for DPRK’s hackers, marked by the massive $600 million Axie Infinity heist.

While North Korean-associated groups represent nearly 30% of all crypto thefts this year, a decline doesn’t signify enhanced security or diminished crime. As Chainalysis points out, “One major heist could easily push thefts beyond the $1B mark in 2023.”

Only halfway through September, the month appears rife with DeFi exploits. Not all, however, are attributable to North Korean factions. The De.Fi Rekt database confirms seven major crypto breaches this month alone. Topping the list is the massive $52 million exploit of the CoinEx exchange on September 12.

Assuming there will be further exploits, hacks, thefts, and rug pulls throughout 2023 seems plausible. The industry still has a lot of work ahead to thwart such attacks.

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