UN Reports Highest Crypto Theft by North Korean Hackers in 2022

After taking cognizance of every other year, the United Nations (UN) concluded that North Korea stole more crypto assets in 2022 than in any other year.

According to the new UN report, hackers in this region introduced more advanced technologies and techniques to carry out their schemes. Their targets were usually foreign aerospace companies and defense organizations.

Based on the independent sanctions monitor’s report to the U.N. Security Council committee, 

“(North Korea) used increasingly sophisticated cyber techniques both to gain access to digital networks involved in cyber finance, and to steal information of potential value, including to its weapons programmes.”

“The variation in USD value of cryptocurrency in recent months is likely to have affected these estimates, but both show that 2022 was a record-breaking year for DPRK (North Korea) virtual asset theft,” the U.N. report said.

This manner of sophistication made it difficult to trace stolen assets, thereby making it easier for these criminals to get away with their crimes. 

North Korea Funding Nuclear Program With Crypto

Only last year, between $630 million to more than $1 billion worth of stolen crypto assets were attributed to North Korean hackers. It was discovered that half of the amount of North Korean crypto theft recorded in five years was stolen in one year, which was 2022.

Again a few days ago, another report from blockchain analytic firm Chainalysis totaled North Korea’s crypto theft in 2022 to be approximately $1.7 billion of which Decentralized Finance (DeFi) protocols were major victims. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) explained that North Korea increased its focus on committing crypto thefts after the UN tightened its sanctions on its nuclear and missile program. 

Noteworthy, Chainalysis said that these stolen crypto assets are worth more than the region’s entire export in the same year. “For context, North Korea’s total exports in 2020 totalled $142 million worth of goods, so it isn’t a stretch to say that cryptocurrency hacking is a sizable chunk of the nation’s economy.”

Apart from the sophisticated techniques employed, North Korean hackers employed the service of crypto mixers like Tornado Cash to further obfuscate the source of their loot. When Tornado Cash came under the sanction of the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for money laundering, they moved over to a new custodial Bitcoin mixer known as Sinbab.