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FBI Issues New Warning To Crypto Firms About North Korean Hackers

2 mins
Updated by Kyle Baird
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In Brief

  • FBI warns crypto firms to check blockchain data against wallets linked to thefts of hundreds of millions in crypto.
  • DPRK's TraderTraitor-affiliated actors suspected of stealing $41.8 million in Bitcoin, could soon convert it into cash.
  • The FBI urges prompt action, suggesting firms halt transactions linked to six wallets holding stolen funds.
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a strong warning to cryptocurrency firms, urging them to thoroughly check blockchain data against wallets that have been responsible for stealing hundreds of millions worth of crypto.

The FBI further asserts that crypto stolen by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) TraderTraitor-affiliated actors this week might soon be turned to cash.

FBI Urges Quick Response By Crypto Firms

According to the August 22 statement, the FBI revealed that DPRK hackers recently transferred approximately $41.8 million USD in Bitcoin:

“The FBI investigation found the TraderTraitor-affiliated actors moved approximately 1,580 bitcoin from several cryptocurrency heists.”

The FBI’s warning lists the six crypto wallets where those funds are currently being held. The FBI suggests crypto firms check for these addresses in their blockchain data and stop any transactions linked to them.

In 2023 alone, hackers linked to DPRK’s TraderTraitor applications were responsible for multiple attacks.

On June 22, the hackers orchestrated the theft of $60 million in crypto from Alphapo and another $37 million theft from CoinsPaid.

Prior to this, on June 2, they managed to seize $100 million of crypto from Atomic Wallet

The DPRK groups responsible for TraderTraitor are the Lazarus Group and APT38. They conduct their activity through a series of malicious applications targeting crypto and blockchain entities.

To learn more about crypto scams, read BeInCrypto’s guide: 15 Most Common Crypto Scams To Look Out For

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency explains that a “TraderTraitor” application can also target individual users by tricking them into downloading harmful cryptocurrency applications by offering users fake high-paying jobs. 

Once downloaded, the hackers can then steal funds from victims’ wallets. 

Recently, the FBI has issued multiple warnings regarding the DPRK’s attacks on crypto firms. Notably, its significant hacks on Harmony’s Horizon Bridge and Sky Mavis’ Ron Bridge.

In June 2022, the hackers exploited a security flaw in Harmony’s blockchain multi-sig wallet. They used this to breach the Horizon bridge, which connects Harmony’s blockchain to Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, and Bitcoin. This led to the theft of almost $100 million.

Large Amount of Crypto Seized By North Korean Hackers in 2022

The amount of reported crypto stolen by North Korean hackers in 2022 is alarming.

On July 19, a senior officer from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) verified that North Korean crypto hackers stole a staggering amount of crypto last year:

“North Korea stole a total of US$700 million worth of cryptocurrency last year, equivalent to the money that would enable the country to fire 30 intercontinental ballistic missiles”

Additionally, the NIS officer believes that the stolen amount adds up to 30% of North Korea’s foreign money earnings.

Chainalysis reports that 2022 saw the highest amount of crypto hacking to date, with $3.8 billion taken from crypto firms.

Total Value Stolen In Crypto Hacks and Number Of Hacks. Source: Chainalysis
Total Value Stolen In Crypto and Number Of Hacks. Source: Chainalysis

There were significant surges in both March and October, with October standing out as the all-time leader for crypto hacking in a single month. In October, $775.7 million was stolen across 32 separate attacks.

The attacks primarily targeted DeFi protocols. These hacks comprised 82.1% of the total, amounting to $3.1 billion, a substantial increase of approximately 9% from the previous year.

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Ciaran Lyons
Ciaran is a cryptocurrency journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He particularly enjoys writing about CBDC developments and the practical implementations of cryptocurrency in real-world scenarios. He has also appeared across major television networks in Australia including Channel Ten, Channel Nine and SBS TV. Prior to his foray into cryptocurrency, Ciaran worked as a presenter on national radio station Triple J.