North Korean hackers stole $400 million in cryptocurrency in 2021, a new report published by blockchain data platform Chainalysis revealed.
The report said North Korean hackers had one of its most successful years on record.
Analysts say North Korea has built up its cyber capabilities with an army of thousands of well-trained hackers who extract finances to fund the state’s weapons programmes.
“From 2020 to 2021, the number of North Korean-linked hacks jumped from four to seven, and the value extracted from these hacks grew by 40 per cent,” said the report.
“Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out.”
“These complex tactics and techniques have led many security researchers to characterize cyber actors for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as advanced persistent threats.”
The report highlighted the rise of Lazarus Group, which gained notoriety in 2014 when it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment as revenge for “The Interview,” a satirical film that mocked leader Kim Jong Un.
“Whatever the reason may be, the length of time that (North Korea) is willing to hold on to these funds is illuminating, because it suggests a careful plan, not a desperate and hasty one,” Chainalysis concluded.
North Korea’s cyber-programme dates back to at least the mid-1990s, but has since grown to a 6,000-strong cyberwarfare unit, known as Bureau 121, that operates from several countries including Belarus, China, India, Malaysia, and Russia, as per a US military report published in 2020.
A United Nations panel of experts that monitors sanctions on North Korea has accused Pyongyang of using stolen funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to circumvent sanctions.