Since 2017, Japan has lost $721 million in cryptocurrency from several North Korea-linked hacking groups while during the same time, the United States has lost $497 million, IB Times reported.
In a study commissioned by the Japanese financial outlet Nikkei, the blockchain analytics firm Elliptic analyzed North Korean cryptocurrency attacks between 2017 and 2022. The amount of cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean hackers amounts to 30 percent of the more than $2.3 billion in total global losses sustained during that time.
Based on the analysis, the crypto assets stolen by North Korean hackers were used by Pyongyang to obtain foreign currency to fund its missile program, which poses a significant threat to the security of the region, the report said.
According to Elliptic, the cyberattacks are Pyongyang’s strategy to “make up for the loss of foreign exchange” from the country’s coal exports.
Elliptic analyzed the two types of cyberattacks used by North Korean cyber criminals, namely ransomware and hacking. Based on its assessment, Pyongyang focuses its efforts on directly attacking crypto exchanges to access assets.
In addition to Japan, North Korean hackers also targeted Vietnam, stealing $540 million in crypto assets from the country since 2017. The United States experienced the third-highest theft of assets, with $497 million, followed by Hong Kong with $281 million.
According to Elliptic, one person familiar with the cyberattacks in Japan said between 2018 and 2021, at least three Japanese crypto exchanges are believed to have been hacked by North Korean groups.
The External Trade Organization in Japan said the assets stolen from Japan since 2017 amount to nearly nine times the value of North Korea’s 2021 exports.
The largest known North Korean criminal hacking group is the Lazarus Group. In recent years, the Lazarus Group perpetrated some of the biggest crypto thefts, including the Harmony Bridge and Ronin Bridge hacks.
According to Reuters, the United Nations found that North Korean-based hackers stole more cryptocurrency assets in 2022 than in any previous year.