In a comprehensive report, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun revealed that North Korea has been launching cyber attacks to target cryptocurrencies in countries such as Japan and Vietnam. Analysis conducted by the newspaper and British cryptocurrency analysis company Elliptic shows that over the past six years, North Korea has managed to steal approximately $2.3 billion (RM10.343 billion) worth of encrypted currency assets globally. Japanese companies have been hit the hardest, with approximately $721 million (RM3.24 billion) stolen, accounting for 30% of the global stolen amount.
According to the joint analysis by Nihon Keizai Shimbun and Elliptic, North Korea’s objective is to acquire foreign exchange by coveting cryptocurrencies of other nations. The money obtained through these cyber attacks may be utilized in the development of ballistic missiles, posing a potential threat to overall security in Asia. Consequently, establishing an international network to counter such activities has become a top priority.
The Nikkei report highlights the statement adopted by the finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of Seven (G7) on the 13th, which notes the increasing threat posed by certain national entities employing improper methods. North Korea’s activities involve stealing cryptocurrencies from other countries.
Elliptic, which utilizes blockchain technology for tracking and securing cryptocurrency transactions, was commissioned by Nikkei to identify the companies that transferred cryptocurrencies to e-wallets used by North Korean hacker group Lazarus Group. This marks the first time that victims of North Korean hackers have been classified and published based on their country and region.
North Korea’s cyber attacks primarily involve hacking and ransomware. The focus of this investigation centers on hacking attacks targeting cryptocurrency exchanges, as successful breaches yield substantial amounts of stolen funds. The outcome of ransomware attacks, on the other hand, remains uncertain.
According to Elliptic, from 2017 until the end of 2022, North Korea managed to steal a total of $2.3 billion in cryptocurrencies from various countries. Japan topped the list, with the largest amount stolen, followed by Vietnam ($540 million), the United States ($497 million), and Hong Kong ($281 million). The rapid expansion of the cryptocurrency market, coupled with inadequate security measures taken by operators in Japan and Vietnam, has made them prime targets for these attacks.
Japan’s trade promotion agency, JETRO, emphasized that the $721 million stolen from Japan is equivalent to 8.8 times the value of North Korea’s exports in 2021.
The report further indicates that North Korea has intensified its hacking activities due to the difficulties it faces in earning foreign exchange under international sanctions. With coal, its main export, being banned, North Korea has adopted hacking as a “national strategy.”