North Korean hackers behind $35 million crypto theft, experts suspect

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Jun. 8, 2023 8:27PM GMT+9

North Korean hackers are thought to be behind the latest cryptocurrency theft of at least 35 million dollars, according to cybersecurity experts.

In a recent report, Elliptic, a United Kingdom based cryptocurrency analysis firm, linked the cybercriminals who stole digital assets from Atomic Wallet, a cryptocurrency service company, to a well-known North Korean state-sponsored hacking group named Lazarus.

Atomic Wallet suffered a cyberattack which affected less than 1% of their monthly active users, according to the company’s Twitter post on June 5. The company claims to have more than 5 million individual users.

Although the firm did not disclose the exact amount of cryptocurrency drained by the cybercriminals, experts estimated that more than 35 million dollars worth of cryptocurrency has been stolen. The Readable made a request to Atomic Wallet to comment on the total number of victims and the accurate amount of stolen assets but did not receive an immediate answer.

The investigation team at Elliptic attributed the attack to the North Korean hackers based on several factors including the money laundering process and the tools used. In the report, experts explained that the cryptocurrency theft followed the same steps and used the same tools as the Lazarus group to launder the stolen assets.

Lazarus is one of the prolific hacking groups that works on behalf of the North Korean government. The South Korean government imposed sanctions on these cybercriminals last February alongside four North Koreans and six other government linked organizations. Lazarus was also sanctioned by the United States in 2019 for their malicious cyber activities on critical infrastructure.

The cover image of this article was designed by Sangseon Kim.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.