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North Korea has stolen an estimated 1.7 billion USD in crypto hacks 

North Korea has stolen an estimated 1.7 billion USD in crypto hacks 

Cyber hackers in North Korea are responsible for the theft of 1.7 billion USD from crypto exchanges according to South Korean media outlets. The haul of tokens are regarded as a ‘long term’ haul rather than a short term cash flow according to some South Korean reports.

The US Justice department accused three North Korean military intelligence officials of masterminding  cyber attacks in February 2021, on behalf of the government of Kim Jong-Un. Assistant attorney general John Demers noted at the time:

“North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world’s leading bank robbers”

The threat posed by North Korea’s cyber experts is now estimated to be 1.7 billion USD, according to local media and Pyongyang has been implicated in several major crypto hacks over the past few years, primarily attacks against South Korea, but also greater global attacks. In 2017, an elite North Korean hacking unit known as the “Lazarus group” deployed a ransomware called “Iwannacry” - which led to many IT systems collapsing across the globe including a number of  the UK’s NHS trusts. 

North Korea’s crypto attacks are equally as aggressive,  according to a 2019 report by the UN sanctions committee expert panel North Korea attacked Upbit, a South Korean virtual asset exchange, in 2019 and stole about 57 billion won of Ethereum. In 2017 crypto exchange youbit went bankrupt in 2017- blaming North Korean hackers for the theft of around 17 billion won worth of virtual assets.

The Senior Research Fellow Koh Myung-hyun from Asan Institute for Policy Studies’ noted that rather than cashing out the vast sums of tokens, North Korea appears to be holding on to the stolen cryptocurrency with the intention of keeping it as a long term investment:

“Considering the fact that the price of bitcoin (BTC) has risen more than 60 times since 2017, when North Korean hackers started hacking cryptocurrency exchanges in earnest, North Korea is using the stolen cryptocurrency from the perspective of long-term investment. 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.”

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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