The firm Chainalysis reports that wallets attributed to North Korean hackers containing funds linked to some 49 hacks carried out between 2017 and 2021 have seen their value melt since the beginning of the year. The latter are in fact driven by the fall in the prices of Bitcoin and other cryptos. At the beginning of January, these accounts were valued at $170 million. To date, their value would be only 65 million dollars.
We are talking here about known accounts attributed to North Korean hackers. In other words, the tip of the iceberg: in 2019 alone, hacks attributed to the country would have diverted more than 2 billion dollars. The accounts monitored by Chainalysis actually contain sums of dirty money awaiting laundering and have seen little movement during the interval.
The fall of Bitcoin makes an astonishing collateral victim: North Korea
Still, it is a deadweight loss of some 61%. The sums stolen during an attack in 2021 have even lost more than 80% of their value at current prices. Hit by very heavy sanctions that isolate it from international markets, North Korea has increased its tricks in recent years to illegally generate foreign currency inflows. Enough to allow the country to maintain despite everything its economy, and especially its military nuclear program, afloat.
One of these North Korean tactics is to develop formidable cyber warfare capabilities, and to carry out lucrative large-scale attacks, via ransomware or phishing attempts among other examples. A very lucrative activity, especially since according to various reports, the sums thus diverted or stolen would be placed directly at the disposal of the leader of the country, who can therefore allocate the sums as he sees fit to the programs of his choice, in addition to maintain a lifestyle somewhat out of step with that of North Koreans.
Mercedes, Apple products… the international sanctions imposed for years seem to have a very limited effect on the country’s leaders and the nuclear ambitions that the international community seeks to sanction. Nevertheless, the fall in crypto prices seems to shake a rather practical system of sanction evasion somewhat. It should be noted, however, that despite the drop in value, the sums stolen by North Korean pirates have not disappeared.
Especially since the latter can continue to generate large sums via new attacks, and even, no doubt, to generate enormous profits later when crypto prices resume their upward path.