North Korean Crypto Hackers Target Japan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong - Hacker groups affiliated with the North Korean government have targeted crypto projects of neighboring countries in order to obtain foreign currency and use it for a missile program.

    Japan and Vietnam are two countries that are being targeted by North Korean hackers because the crypto here is growing so quickly while cyber security is weak. According to a study by Elliptic, since 2017, Japan has lost $721 million in crypto attacks, equivalent to 30% of the world total of over $2.3 billion. At least 3 crypto exchanges in this country were hacked between 2018 and 2021, for example Zaif – the crypto exchange lost 7 billion yen ($51.4 million) in 2018 and went bankrupt shortly after.

    Elliptic also followed and identified Bitcoin transfers to digital wallets used by North Korean hacker group Lazarus. They mainly focus on hacking attacks instead of malicious code to steal money directly from crypto exchanges.

    Based on Elliptic’s analysis, a total of $2.3 billion in crypto was stolen by North Korean hacker groups between 2017 and 2022. Japan accounts for the largest proportion, followed by Vietnam, the US and Hong Kong. According to a United Nations Security Council report, North Korea hackers stole between $600 million and $1 billion in crypto in 2022.

    Cyber attacks affiliated with the North Korean government are considered part of a national strategy to compensate for the shortage of foreign currency, which is the result of the US sanctions against this country. The profits will then be used to buy supplies for its missile program.

    Japan and other countries have increased security through the amended Payment Services Act. However, they have yet to mention the adoption of new technology such as decentralized finance (DeFi) and support for local crypto exchanges in terms of regulation.

    In October 2022, Japan’s National Police Agency and authorities issued a warning about North Korea and urged crypto exchange organizations to be careful. The US also identified North Korea as being involved in multiple global malware attacks in 2017.

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