North Korea-based hackers made headlines as they seize $1.5 billion of cryptocurrencies and convert a portion of the stolen sum to cash using privacy-focused altcoins.
NEW: North Korea has started using nearly untraceable cryptocurrencies to convert stolen funds into cash and evade sanctions. Experts estimate that DPRK-linked hackers stole a total of $1.5 billion in cryptocurrency, some of which was exchanged for cash.https://t.co/MSOhQjmifa— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) August 7, 2020
The hackers reportedly used untraceable alternative cryptocurrencies, or altcoins, to convert stolen funds into cash. The unpublished report shared by the United Nations Panel of Experts to NK News illustrates how the network behind this heist used virtual currencies like altcoins, a less popular cryptocurrency than bitcoin but offers faster transfers and anonymity - loosely regulated exchanges that do not verify thoroughly the identification of customers and its transactions; and mixers - an advanced service that mixes cryptocurrency funds of various users to preserve privacy and make tracking efforts more difficult, to convert portions of the billion-worth cryptocurrencies to cash.
A senior analyst at the cybersecurity firm Mandiant Threat Intelligence shared to Cointelegraph that these attacks are North Korea-sponsored, which gives them a critical advantage over other cybercriminals because they are backed by resources of a nation-state that have a significant capability to move money in other illegal transactions, such as weapons sales and human trafficking.
This is one of the numerous suspected virtual heists North Korea is suspected of, between 2017 and 2018 an infamous cybercriminal group called Lazarus stole over $571 million. Cointelegraph in 2018 released a report that more than 65% of stolen cryptocurrencies were all linked to North Korea. Just last year, based on UN report cited by Reuters, North Korea organized a cyberattack to fund its nuclear program which runs to $2 billion in cash and cryptocurrencies.
These attacks led the panel of experts to called out North Korea over this illicit use of cryptocurrencies and illegal transfers with the use of sophisticated social engineering operations and malware exploits. United Nations experts' revealed that attacks against virtual currency exchanges have produced more illicit income than attacks against financial institutions. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to target digital assets to generate income for their advantage.