North Korea stole a record amount of crypto in 2022

Hacker groups controlled by the North Korean intelligence agency stole a record amount of crypto assets last year. Numbers vary depending on sources, with the highest reaching $1.7 billion.

Crypto criminals

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has developed an impressive proficiency in crypto crime. The country stole more cryptocurrency in 2022 than in any previous year, according to a currently confidential report the United Nations shared with Reuters.

North Korea has allegedly "used increasingly sophisticated cyber techniques both to gain access to digital networks involved in cyber finance, and to steal information of potential value, including to its weapons programmes," independent sanctions monitors claim in the paper submitted to a U.N. Security Council committee.

The North Korea-linked hackers' 2022 loot is estimated at around $630 million, the highest yearly profit on record. The money funds the country's nuclear and missile programs, monitors claimed on previous occasions. Criminals didn't stop short of offensive activities, targeting the networks of aerospace and defense companies.

According to the monitors, most attacks were conducted by groups controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), DPRK's intelligence agency. They include collectives well-known to cybersecurity experts, such as Andariel, Kimsuky, and Lazarus Group. "These actors continued illicitly to target victims to generate revenue and solicit information of value to the DPRK including its weapons programmes," the report states.

Read also: North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program cited in Tornado Cash ban

North Korea-related hackers did exceptionally good – in terms of doing bad – last year, but 2022 turned out remarkable for crypto hackers of all breeds and affiliations. In its last week's report, Chainanalysis estimated that crypto criminals raked in a record 3.8 billion. The hacking activity was uneven throughout the year, with spikes in March and October. The latter was the most lucrative, with $775.7 million stolen in 32 unrelated attacks.

According to Chainanlysis and other sources, DPRK-related crypto hackers might have stolen as much as $1.7 billion last year, by far exceeding UN-affiliated monitors' estimations.