Pyongyang is under multiple international sanctions for its atomic bomb and ballistic missile developments, but analysts say North Korea has also built up its cyber capabilities with an army of thousands of well-trained hackers who siphon funds to finance the country’s weapons programs. condition.
In 2021, hackers launched seven attacks on crypto platforms, siphoning assets from “internet-connected ‘hot’ wallets” and moving them to accounts controlled by North Korea, according to Chainalysis.
“Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and withdraw money,” Chainalysis said in a report posted on its website.
“These complex tactics and techniques have led many security researchers to characterize Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cyber actors as advanced persistent threats.”
The report highlighted the rise of the Lazarus Group, which gained notoriety in 2014 when it was accused of pirating Sony Pictures Entertainment in revenge for “The Interview,” a satirical film that mocked leader Kim Jong Un.
“From 2018 onwards, the group has stolen and laundered massive amounts of virtual currency each year, typically more than $200 million.”
Hackers are also targeting a diverse array of cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin, the world’s largest digital currency, accounting for just a quarter of stolen assets.
“The growing variety of stolen cryptocurrencies has necessarily increased the complexity of the DPRK’s crypto laundering operation,” Chainalysis said.
North Korea’s cyber program dates back to at least the mid-1990s, but has since grown into a 6,000-strong cyber warfare unit, known as Office 121, operating from several countries, including Belarus, China, India, Malaysia and Russia, according to a 2020 US military report.
The United States imposed new sanctions on North Korea this week after what Pyongyang called hypersonic missile tests on January 5 and 11.
On Friday, South Korean and Japanese officials said North Korea fired an unidentified projectile eastward in its third suspected weapons test in just over a week.
Source Credit: TheGuardian
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