North Korean Crypto Hacks to ‘Surge’ This Year, Say Experts

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Beebright/Adobe

A “surge” in North Korean crypto hacks is on its way in 2023, a security provider has claimed.

The South Korean media outlet Money S reported that Panda Security, a Spanish cybersecurity software firm, predicted a “surge in fraudulent activities” and attempts to “steal virtual assets” in the year ahead.

The firm stated that hackers from North Korea would look to “exploit the renewed public interest in cryptocurrency” as markets recover from crypto winter.

Seven-day bitcoin (BTC) prices. (Source: CoinMarketCap)

Panda added that “attacks on major crypto exchanges” were also likely in 2023, and “may also harm users.”

The provider added that Pyongyang would “focus more on illegal cyber activities to raise funds” from “the cryptocurrency market” in 2023.

The media outlet noted that crypto has become “an important source of funding for North Korean nuclear programs and missile development.” It claimed that it was “because of the theft and laundering of cryptocurrencies that [the North] was able to launch 70 ballistic missiles on at least 33 occasions” in 2022 – despite the crippling sanctions it has been hit with in recent years.

Lim Chul, a Professor at the Center for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, was quoted as stating:

“[Government organs] presented an ambitious [weapons] plan at a North Korean central committee plenary meeting at the end of last year.”

To fund this plan, the media outlet noted, North Korea will need “foreign currency,” meaning that “an increase in illegal cyber activities will be inevitable.”

Another academic claimed that UN would likely respond with sanctions. Park Won-gon, a Professor at Ewha Womans University, was quoted as stating:

“If North Korea steals [more] cryptocurrency, additional sanctions will be imposed in each case. Many of these instances will be related to China.”

Park claimed that the UN will need to ask itself if it is prepared to respond by “imposing sanctions on individuals and companies in China.”

North Korean Crypto Hacking on the Rise?

The Panda claims come after South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) recently stated that North Korean hackers had stolen an estimated $1.2 billion in “crypto and other virtual assets” in the past five years – with over “half” of that amount hacked in 2022. The NIS also predicted a rise in Pyongyang-ordered hacks this year.

Security providers claim that Pyongyang is now operating bogus crypto wallets and crypto exchange clones – whose installer programs contain “trojan-type” viruses. They claim that these viruses compromise the PCs of their victims, allowing hackers to move in and later steal coins.