North Korea has one of the most active hacker groups, with resources dedicated towards crypto heists over the past few years.
In March this year, US authorities linked the Lazarus Group to one of the largest crypto heists – the hack on Axie Infinity bridge Ronin that resulted in over $615 million being stolen.
But while North Korea has amassed millions of dollars’ worth of stolen crypto funds, the total value of these assets has fallen sharply amid the brutal crypto bear market.
Crypto crash eats into North Korea’s crypto loot
According to reports, Pyongyang has benefited from 49 hacks carried out between 2017 and 2021. Chainalysis, a US-based blockchain analytics firm that has monitored the movement of the stolen funds, told Reuters that North Korea had $170 million in stolen crypto funds.
Per the report, North Korea’s crypto wealth has plummeted to $65 million, with the wider crypto market downturn slicing into the funds since the start of 2022.
TRM Labs, another of the blockchain analytics platforms on the trail of hacked crypto funds, says one of the heists that was valued in tens of millions in 2021 is now down more than 80%. The firm puts the current value of those funds at below $10 million.
But Pyongang only keeps a fraction of crypto heists
While Lazarus Group was linked to the Ronin hack that bled over $615 million worth of crypto from the platform, reports say that North Korea did not keep the whole loot, as has happened with other thefts in the past.
According to one London-based think tank, Pyongyang only ends with “a fraction” of what its hackers steal. This is due to the fact that it cashing out the loot involves brokers whose demands are often non-negotiable.
Despite keeping only a small portion of the hack proceeds, and the falling value of its unlaundered crypto, security analysts say North Korea is unlikely to alter its crypto behavior.
Experts say crypto is part of the country’s paths to evading sanctions and perpetuating money laundering. It’s hard to see this changing any time soon, or ever.
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