North Korean hacker, Cryptocurrency North Korea likely culprit behind $100 million Cryptocurrency heist


North Korean hackers are probable culprits behind last week’s theft of as much as $100m in cryptocurrency from a U.S. firm, as the government steps up efforts to secure funding for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.


The digital currencies were stolen on 23 June from Horizon Bridge, a service operated by the Harmony blockchain that allows digital assets to be transferred to other blockchains, three digital investigative firms have concluded. Believed to be the most prolific cyber-thieve, activities by the hackers since the heist suggests they may be linked to North Korea.


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Chainalysis, a blockchain firm working with Harmony to investigate the attack, said on Twitter on Tuesday that the style of theft and high velocity of structured payments to a mixer – used to obscure the origin of funds – is analogous to previous attacks that were attributed to North Korea-linked attacks. That conclusion was echoed by other investigators.


Nick Carlsen, a former FBI analyst who now investigates North Korea’s cryptocurrency heists for TRM Labs, a U.S.-based firm, said that “Preliminarily this looks like a North Korean hack based on transaction behavior”.


There are strong signs that North Korea’s Lazarus Group may be in control of this theft, based on the nature of the hack and the subsequent laundering of the stolen digital assets, another firm, Elliptic, said in a report on Thursday.


“The thief is attempting to break the transaction trail back to the original theft,” the report said. “This makes it easier to cash out the funds at an exchange.”


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U.S. officials say Lazarus is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence organization. It has been suspected of involvement in the “WannaCry” ransomware attacks, hacks of global banks and customer accounts, and the 2014 cyber-attacks against Sony Pictures Entertainment.


If confirmed, this attack would be the eighth this year – involving $1bn in Digital Assets stolen – that could be confidently attributed to North Korea, Chainalysis said. The thefts are responsible for 60% of all funds stolen so far this year, it added.



The government has poured resources into stealing digital currencies in recent years and was responsible for one of the largest cryptocurrency heists on record in March, in which almost $615m worth of cryptocurrency was stolen, according to the US Treasury.


But North Korea’s capacity to cash in on its stolen digital assets could be hampered by a recent slump in Cryptocurrency Markets across the globe that is thought to have wiped out millions of dollars of its funds.


If the cryptocurrency market crash continues, experts believe Pyongyang could turn to other ways to fund its nuclear and missile programme that has cost an estimated $620m so far this year, according to the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses in Seoul.


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