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FTX collapse will blunt activities of North Korea hackers, analyst says

The collapse of FTX.com will hinder the activities of North Korea’s hacking teams that target theft of cryptocurrencies, Troy Stangarone, senior director at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI), wrote in the online news magazine The Diplomat.

See related article: DPRK hackers sneak US$52 mln in crypto into S.Korean exchanges: Chainalysis

Fast facts

  • According to Stangarone, the FTX meltdown will reduce the ability of North Korea to steal cryptocurrency as exchanges ramp up security and oversight, along with increased scrutiny of exchanges by regulators. In addition, the slump in cryptocurrency prices makes the hacks less profitable.

  • Stangarone said the North Korean regime’s zero-Covid policy has led to a decline in revenue from exports, spurring more crypto heists. Its trade with China — its biggest trade partner — plummeted around 90% in 2021 when compared to that of pre-Covid 2019, Nikkei reported.

  • North Korea has been funding its nuclear and ballistic missile programs with profits from cyberattacks on crypto exchanges, Reuters reported earlier this year, citing a confidential United Nations report.

  • U.S.-based blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis reported in September that North Korea had stolen about US$1 billion worth of cryptocurrencies just from decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols in the first eight months of 2022.

  • Last month, Japan’s National Police Agency announced that North Korea-backed hacker group Lazarus had been sending phishing emails to Japanese crypto exchange employees to infect their computers with malware.

  • The FBI accused North Korea of conducting the US$620 million crypto heist on Axie Infinity’s Ronin Bridge, and blockchain analytics firm Elliptic accused the state of hacking US$100 million out of the Horizon Bridge of Harmony. Both cyberattacks, which took advantage of bridges that enable interaction between two blockchains, took place earlier this year.

See related article: Bad actors in North Korea, Russia send record-high funds to crypto mixers