At least 7 crypto exchange hacks were traced to North Korea in 2021. The total worth of the stolen funds amounts to $400 million. The latest report by Chainalysis also revealed that these 2021 numbers have jumped by 40% from those of 2020. The most notable victim of these attacks was the Japanese exchange Liquid.com which lost $ 91 million.
The most common tactics were used by the fraudsters: phishing techniques, malware, code exploits, social engineering, and more were used by the hacker to infiltrate the exchanges.
Chinalysis commented that a “careful laundering process” followed to cover the stolen money. It also adds that a variety of different assets were stolen in order to complicate the money laundering process, thus obscuring it to authorities.
Experts have revealed the most common way of laundering these stolen assets. First, the hackers use decentralized exchanges to swap crypto assets for Ether. Next, they send these to the so-called mixers to hide the history of transactions. Later on, the Ether is once again swapped for BTC on decentralized exchanges and then, again, sent to mixers to cover the tracks. After a while, the Bitcoins are safely deposited into certain Asian exchanges and soon exchanged for cash.
However, Chainalysis revealed that some $170 million of unlaundered cryptocurrencies are currently sitting in North Korean-based wallets.
The UN has pointed out in the past that North Korean-sponsored hackers have been attacking exchanges, and the panel has accused the state of using stolen cryptos to fund its nuclear weapons program.