In a startling revelation, blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs disclosed that North Korean-affiliated groups were behind approximately one-third of all cryptocurrency stolen through hacks in 2023. TRM Labs’ January 5 report suggests that these hackers potentially made off with a staggering $700 million, with $600 million confirmed by the firm’s research. Notably, this marks an escalation, as DPRK hackers have reportedly pilfered around $3 billion in crypto since 2017.
Evolving Money Laundering Tactics by DPRK
TRM Labs notes that North Korean hackers continuously adapt their money laundering methods to elude international law enforcement scrutiny. The research indicates that these hackers consistently compromise users’ private keys or seed phrases, funnel funds into DPRK-controlled wallets, and then convert the assets into Tether or Tron.
Despite advancements in cybersecurity and increased global collaboration to track and recover stolen funds, TRM Labs emphasizes the need for ongoing vigilance and innovation from businesses and governments to counter North Korea’s formidable hacking prowess. The report anticipates that 2024 may witness further disruptions from these prolific cyber-thieves.
US Treasury Imposes Sanctions, DPRK Explores Alternatives
Following the imposition of sanctions by the United States Treasury Department on individuals and hacking groups linked to North Korea, including Lazarus, TRM Labs observed that DPRK hackers are exploring alternative laundering tools. This comes after the Treasury’s sanctions targeted cryptocurrency mixers Tornado Cash and Sinbad.
CertiK Highlights Crypto Breaches: 751 Incidents in 2023
In a separate development, CertiK‘s January 3 report revealed a concerning tally of approximately 751 crypto breaches in 2023, resulting in losses exceeding $1.8 billion. DPRK hackers are alleged to be responsible for one-third of these breaches. The Ethereum network bore the brunt of the losses, with $686 million compromised over 224 incidents.
North Korean hackers stole USD 600 million in crypto in 2023, TRM Labs research shows. Read the story now: https://t.co/dyNmTcVzcP
— TRM Labs (@trmlabs) January 5, 2024
US Officials Point to Digital Assets in Sanctions
The use of digital assets has often been cited by U.S. officials as grounds for imposing sanctions on various entities, including the recent case of the terrorist group Hamas after its October 7 attack on Israel. Cryptocurrency mixers have also drawn regulatory scrutiny, with lawmakers asserting that the technology is primarily utilized for illicit purposes.