North Korea stole nearly $400 million in cryptocurrency in 2021, particularly ethereum, researchers have found, indicating its national strategy of hacking and laundering digital money remains successful.
The isolated country, beset by sanctions from the United States and other countries, has long relied on its hacker corps to break into financial institutions around the world to steal money. In recent years, those hackers have increasingly focused on companies that handle and trade cryptocurrency, which is stored in digital wallets and can easily be sent around the world if a hacker gains access.
A United Nations report last year found that North Korea had hacked and stolen $316 million in virtual assets between 2019 and 2020 to use for its nuclear weapons program.
That tactic was particularly effective last year, according to researchers at Chainalysis, a company that monitors transactions on blockchains, which are a kind of public record that track all transactions for most cryptocurrencies. North Korea’s hackers successfully breached at least seven cryptocurrency exchanges and laundered the money, the company said.