North Korean hackers have stolen $1.2bn in five years

More than half of the total was stolen in 2022 alone, indicating that North Korea is becoming better at digital crypto theft.

North Korean hackers have been able to steal as much as $1.2bn in cryptocurrency over the past five years, with more than half of this amount successfully pilfered over the past 12 months.

The news comes from South Korea’s spy agency and details the operations of the country’s belligerent neighbor in the north.

North Korea has invested considerably in broadening its understanding of hacking and cyberattacks, to fund a frail regime supported by foreign aid. It has been put on strict sanction list due to its overtures in nuclear weapons.

The funds are a way to circumnavigate these sanctions and prop up an ailing economy that has been buffeted by both sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Crypto has also been used to bolster the regime’s nuclear program, which remains a threat to the entire world.

According to the South Korean National Intelligence Service, North Korea has some of the best capacity for stealing digital currencies in the world, having begun to train the necessary cadres to enact the attacks since 2017, when the United Nation imposed stiffer restrictions on trade and business with the country.

As a result of those sanctions, key exports such as coal, textiles and seafood suffered, and North Korea began focusing on crypto thefts instead.

If 2022 is any indicator, argues the spy agency, North Korea could continue to successfully attack foreign exchanges and consumer funds almost unpunished.

The profile of cryptocurrencies, benefiting from relevant anonymity, also makes them an ideal target as they can be moved quickly and reliably without the need for a central Western-controlled bank to clear a transaction.

South Korea has also suffered. Out of the $626m stolen in 2022 alone, $78m were linked to funds in South Korea.

Meanwhile, senior diplomats from the US, Japan and South Korea have vowed to do all in their power to curb this new wave of crypto criminals coming out of North Korea.

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Written by Barney


Barney is co-founder of When not at work he can usually be found behind a Nikon. He's won numerous international competitions for his photography and volunteers as a content creator for aid organisations in Africa.

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