Experts believe that North Korean hackers are behind some of the largest hacks against cryptocurrency exchanges and keeping the stolen funds as a long-term investment.
The government-backed hackers from North Korea have stolen around $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrency from different exchanges during the past five years, claim reports published by local South Korean media outlets Chosun and Newsis.
Crypto- A Long-Term Investment For North Koreans
According to reports (1 and 2) that quoted statements from United States federal prosecutor and data released by the American blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis, North Korea considers cryptocurrency a long-term investment.
Therefore instead of cashing out all the stolen crypto, the government likes to store the assets while a part of the funds is spent on the country’s military supplies.
On the other hand, Myong-Hyun, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies emphasized that cryptocurrency is the only financial asset heavily sanctioned North Korea currently has. That’s because bitcoin’s price has increased over 60 times since 2017. Thus, it has excellent investment potential.
“For North Korea, cryptocurrency has become the only financial asset that can be acquired while it is under tight economic sanctions, and [recognizes its value] for sanctions evasion-related purposes,” said Myong-Hyun.
North Korean Crypto Hacks
North Korea is known for hiring hackers to perform cyber crimes and launder money from other countries. One of the prime suspects in these hacks is the infamous Lazarus group specializing in carrying out malware and phishing attacks to steal cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin.
Although North Korean hackers were behind some large-scale cyberattacks on crypto exchanges, South Korean authorities believe that three noticeable victim companies of their attacks made major headlines.
The first is the hacking of South Korean Bithumb in 2017, where around $32 million worth of crypto was stolen. Then YouBit was targeted in December 2017, and 4,000 bitcoins were obtained illegally, and in September 2020, nearly $281 million worth of cryptocurrency was lost after Kucoin suffered a massive data breach.