N. Korea Blamed for $100M Crypto Heist

But country's holdings have been hit by crash in values
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2022 7:21 AM CDT
N. Korea Blamed for $100M Crypto Heist
A screen, right, showing the falling value Luna is seen at a cryptocurrency exchange in Seoul last month.   (Ryu Hyo-lim/Yonhap via AP)

Cryptocurrency heists aren't as lucrative as they were before the recent crash in values, but hackers apparently linked to North Korea still managed to make off with up to $100 million in a cyberattack on a US company last week, analysts say. Reuters reports that investigators have spotted tell-tale signs of North Korean involvement in the June 23 attack on Horizon Bridge, a service operated by the Harmony start-up that allows users to transfer assets between blockchains. Harmony said Wednesday that it is "working with national authorities and forensic specialists to identify the culprit and retrieve the stolen funds," CNBC reports.

Analysts say the style of the attack and efforts to launder the stolen assets through a "mixer" strongly resemble other North Korean attacks, which are estimated to have brought the country around $1 billion so far this year. Experts believe cyberattacks brought in $2 billion for North Korea's weapons programs last year, though the crash has sharply cut the value of the country's holdings, and its takings were already reduced by the cost of turning stolen cryptocurrency into funds that it could actually use, the Verge reports.

Experts describe hacking as a "low-cost, low-risk but high-return criminal enterprise" for North Korea, the New York Times reports. Pyongyang's "hackers are really good," Eric Pengton-Voak, coordinator of a UN panel of experts on North Korea, said earlier this year. "They look at really interesting and very gray, new areas of cryptocurrency because actually, A, no one really understands them, and B, they can exploit weakness." An official at North Korea's London embassy contacted by Reuters called allegations of cryptocurrency theft "totally fake news." (More North Korea stories.)

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