Report: North Korea Affiliated Cybercriminals Stole $721 Milion Worth Crypto Assets From Japan

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Between 2017 and 2022, hacking groups affiliated with North Korea are thought to have stolen crypto assets worth $721 million from Japan alone. According to the findings of a study by Elliptic, hackers were primarily focused on Japan and Vietnam because operators from the two countries had lax security systems.

Japan Losses Equivalent to 30% of the Global Total

According to the findings of a study conducted by the blockchain intelligence firm Elliptic, North Korea coordinated cyber attacks targeting Japanese crypto assets netted $721 million worth of digital assets between 2022 and 2017. This figure is equivalent to 30% of total global losses that have been attributed to North Korea-affiliated hacker groups.

As per the report in Nikkei Asia, which commissioned the study, the value of crypto assets stolen from Japan alone is 8.8 times more than North Korea’s 2021 export figure. While the cyber attackers are thought to have targeted several countries, the Nikkei report suggested that Japan and Vietnam were especially targeted because of their rapidly growing crypto markets.

Hackers are also thought to have zeroed in on the two countries because operators there used lax security systems. One of the targeted operators or crypto exchange platforms, Zaif, which lost $51.4 million (7 billion yen) in 2018, has since shut down.

Crypto Exchanges Primary Targets

North Korea, which is under U.S. and United Nations sanctions, has struggled to secure the foreign currency that it needs. To compensate for this, hacker groups affiliated with Pyongyang including the Lazarus Group have been handed the task of stealing crypto assets for North Korea. To achieve this, the hacker groups have used two types of cyber attacks; hacking and ransomware.

However, according to the report, North Korea-affiliated cybercriminals have primarily used hacking because these methods enable Pyongyang to “bring in a huge haul of crypto assets” from just one targeted crypto exchange. The hacking also enables North Korea, which is reeling from the effects of sanctions, to raise foreign currency.

Besides Japan, the same hacker groups are said to have targeted the United States and other Asia countries like Hong Kong. As noted in the report, the hacker groups are believed to have stolen $497 million from the United States and $281 million from Hong Kong.

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