In a series of alarming events, North Korean hackers are believed to be behind a string of high-profile crypto heists, leading to concerns about the potential funding of the country’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programs. Multiple experts in the field have pointed to Pyongyang’s involvement in the theft of at least $35 million from a prominent cryptocurrency service. This article delves into the suspected role of North Korean hackers in the recent cryptocurrency heists, shedding light on their money-laundering techniques and the potential repercussions for the affected companies and users.
The Atomic Wallet Hack
One of the latest incidents involved Atomic Wallet, an Estonia-based company known for its software catering to millions of cryptocurrency users. It recently fell victim to a hacking attack, resulting in the unauthorized access and theft of various digital assets. The stolen cryptocurrencies included Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, Dogecoin, Litecoin, BNB coin, and Polygon. The heist predominantly targeted Tron-based USDT tokens, according to blockchain analytics. The company reported that less than 1% of its monthly active users were affected by the breach.
North Korean Hackers and Money-Laundering
According to CNN Business, experts from London-based crypto-tracking firm Elliptic and independent tracker ZachXBT strongly suspect North Korean hackers to be behind the Atomic Wallet breach. The hackers’ money-laundering techniques and the tools employed align with the telltale behavior associated with North Korean cyber operations. The suspected involvement of North Korean hackers in previous incidents, such as the laundering of $100 million stolen from a California-based firm, further bolsters these claims.
Funding Regime’s Weapons Programs
The theft of billions of dollars from banks and cryptocurrency firms over the past few years has become a significant source of revenue for the North Korean regime, as reported by the United Nations and private firms. These illicit activities raise concerns about the potential funding of the country’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programs based on the source. The hacked funds are believed to play a crucial role in supporting these activities, warranting increased scrutiny and countermeasures.
Investigation and Impacted Users
Atomic Wallet is currently conducting a comprehensive investigation into the breach to gather more information and determine the extent of the stolen funds. The company has requested affected users to provide relevant details through a designated Google Docs form, aiming to aid in the investigation process. Several users have shared their experiences on social media platforms, highlighting the severity of the incident and emphasizing the need for enhanced security measures within the cryptocurrency ecosystem.
The suspected involvement of North Korean hackers in the recent crypto heists, including the high-profile breach of Atomic Wallet, raises significant concerns about the security of digital assets and the vulnerability of crypto wallet services. With millions of dollars at stake, the impact of such breaches extends beyond individual users to the broader cryptocurrency industry. Robust security measures, ongoing investigations, and increased collaboration between stakeholders are essential to mitigate future risks and safeguard the integrity of the crypto space.
Giancarlo is an economist and researcher by profession. Prior to his addition to Blockzeit’s dynamic team, he was handling several crypto projects for both the government and private sectors as a Project Manager of a consultancy firm.