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Crypto theft and other forms of cyber espionage have been a key source of income for North Korean hackers, whose home country is in a chronic financial crisis and virtually cut off from the global market.

Since 2017, North Korean hackers are estimated to have stolen cryptocurrencies worth $1.72 billion. Today, that figure would only swell thanks to their relentless pursuit of infiltrating more security defenses and grabbing more money.

Lazarus Group and APT38, two hacking groups with ties to North Korea, were responsible for stealing $100 million from U.S. crypto firm Harmony’s Horizon Bridge in June, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Monday.

Crypto Gone: The Usual Suspects

Horizon Bridge, a service that enables exchange of crypto assets between Harmony and other blockchains, has been stripped of ether (ETH), tether (USDT), and wrapped in bitcoin (wBTC) . Lazarus and APT38 are the most likely culprits.

In a statement on Monday, the FBI confirmed through its investigations that DPRK-affiliated cyber attackers Lazarus Group and APT38 “are responsible for stealing $100 million in virtual currency from Harmony’s Horizon Bridge.” .

According to the FBI, North Korea uses virtual currency theft and laundering to fund its ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

Lazarus GroupThe Lazarus Group. Image: BBC

In June, Reuters quoted three digital investigative firms as saying that North Korean Pirates were responsible for the attack on Harmony.

News and Media Aljazeera complaints the hackers attempted to hide their financial transactions using the Railgun privacy protocol.

Despite this, some of the money was later blocked and clawed back by the exchanges when the hackers attempted to convert them into Bitcoin. The unrecovered money was then transmitted to 11 Ethereum addresses.

North Korean hackers strike

Multiple operations have been carried out by North Korean hackers Lazarus Group over the years, with the majority involving disruption, sabotage, theft of money or espionage.

Lazarus has been a functioning cyber collective since 2009. In 2014, the cyber criminal group hacked into Sony Pictures Entertainment, causing approximately $35 million in computer repairs and a huge reputational blow.

South Korean authorities estimate that at least 892 foreign policy professionals in the country were targeted by these North Korean hackers. As of April 2022, the focus is on members of think tanks and universities.

Crypto total market cap reclaims the $1 trillion level on the daily chart | Chart: TradingView.com

Lazarus was allegedly implicated in a number of major crypto industry breaches, including the $600 million Ronin Bridge hack in March last year.

The FBI said it would continue to uncover and combat North Korean hackers and their exploitation of illegal activities to generate money for the dictatorship, including cybercrime and virtual currency theft.

United States and United Nations authorities have accused North Korea, led by third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un, of spearheading a growing cyber theft effort to fund its activities, including the development of long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Featured image of Time



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