North Korean hackers are suspected of being behind the theft of at least USD 35 million from a cryptocurrency service. This incident is part of a series of hacks targeting cryptocurrency firms that US officials are concerned may be used to fund North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, experts told CNN.
The specific target of this hack was Atomic Wallet, an Estonia-based company with approximately 5 million software users. Atomic Wallet reported that “less than 1 percent” of its monthly users were affected, but they did not disclose the exact amount of money stolen or the identity of the hackers.
North Korean hackers have been involved in stealing billions of dollars from banks and cryptocurrency firms in recent years, serving as a significant revenue source for the regime. The United Nations and private firms have documented these activities.
Crypto-tracking firms, such as Elliptic, have analyzed the money-laundering techniques and tools used in this incident and found similarities to previous North Korean hacking patterns. Independent cryptocurrency tracker ZachXBT also believes that North Korean hackers are likely responsible. The reported amount stolen could exceed USD 35 million as Atomic Wallet continues its investigation.
In another incident involving North Korean hackers, Harmony funds worth USD 100 million were stolen from a California-based firm, and private investigators, along with South Korean intelligence operatives, managed to recover a portion of the money.
The Biden administration has identified countering North Korean hacking and money laundering as a national security priority. They have noted that approximately half of North Korea’s missile program has been funded through cyberattacks and cryptocurrency theft.