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North Korea: a specialist in cryptocurrency theft

A South Korean intelligence report accuses Pyongyang of stealing $1.2 billion in cryptocurrency since 2017

South Korea’s main intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS), reported on 22 December 2022 that North Korean-sponsored cybercriminals had stolen 1.5 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in cryptocurrencies worldwide since 2017.

The press release, published on the same day as the launch of the NIS Cyber Cooperation Center, states that these funds were used to finance North Korea’s ballistic programme. The NIS therefore supports the conclusions of the UN’s February 2022 report on this topic.

In 2022 alone, Pyongyang-sponsored hackers are said to have stolen $626 million from decentralised finance platforms, including $78 million from South Korea. South Korea has also been hit by other North Korean Web3 attacks, including in the Metaverse and on NFTs.

The NIS also warns of a likely increase in North Korean cyberattacks against South Korea in 2023. These would include attempts to steal advanced South Korean technology or confidential information about South Korea’s foreign policy and national security.

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