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  /  cryptocurrency   /  Get Ready for the Crypto War! North Korea is on the Battlefield!
Crypto

Get Ready for the Crypto War! North Korea is on the Battlefield!

Beware of North Korea and its strategies of crypto hacking and sanctions in 2022

The whole world knows that there is no love lost between North Korea and the USA. But there is a difference in the long sustained hostile relations between the two countries. This time the war is getting virtual-digital as North Korea is making efforts to target the USA vis-à-vis the crypto and blockchain domains through the cryptocurrency market. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of America in a very recent report unveils the activities of the “North Korean State-sponsored malicious cyber actors”— focusing on crypto hacking.

According to the report, such crypto hacking activities, spearheaded by the notorious Lazarus Group and ably assisted by groups like APT38, BlueNoroff, and Stardust Chollim, trojanized cryptocurrency applications targeting individuals and companies. It may be recalled that the Lazarus Group had become known for the wrong reasons in 2014 when it was identified as the one which successfully hacked into Sony Pictures and made many confidential data public. These groups in an utterly dictatorial political system like that of North Korea have strings attached to the chief intelligence bureau of that country. The targets include firms, exchanges, financial services companies, and gaming companies in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industries.

The strategy is to use malware to facilitate the theft of cryptocurrency, also known as crypto hacking. The goal is to siphon off funds, which according to some estimates amount to US$200 million per year, for North Korea. It is also reported that a substantial part of such funds is utilized for part-funding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs and for manufacturing various weapons of mass destruction. Such development has floated new concepts like “TraderTraitor” which refers to a series of malicious applications based on JavaScript code and derived from a variety of open-source projects. They purport to be cryptocurrency trading or price prediction tools, and their features are much publicized by way of sourcing from ‘apparently credible’ websites which are actually quite the opposite in reality.

The year 2021 witnessed frequent attacks marked by crypto hacking by North Korea. The so-called hot wallets of cryptocurrencies became a favorite target of attack because they are directly connected to the internet and through this connection they act as real-time conduits in the exchange of cryptocurrencies. And not only that, these wallets are required to view the number of tokens the users have in their possession. Thus, despite the recommendation by some experts that prevention of heists is possible by making the hot wallets inactive, ‘cold wallets’ in practical terms do not take place beyond a point. So, the crypto theft continues. According to a report in Chinalysis, from 2020 to 2021, the number of North Korean-linked hacks increased from four to seven, and the value extracted from these hacks grew by 40%. The State and the cyber hackers sponsored by it seem to have a strong preference when it comes to cryptocurrencies— seem to be professional in crypto hacking. Incidentally, in the stealing crypto zeal, the North Korean forces prefer Ether, with Bitcoin remaining far behind.

It is indeed an interesting development. When several western states, including the USA, are bent on continuing the sanctions on North Korea, the isolated country is inventing new avenues to offset at least some part of the huge financial loss it incurs from such sanctions— by generating a crypto battle of the latest kind.