UN Report Points to North Korea Behind the $281 Million Theft from Crypto Exchange Kucoin

Approximately $316.4 million virtual assets have been stolen by the DPRK from 2019 to November 2020.

The theft of $281 million worth of assets from cryptocurrency exchange last September links to North Korea, states a preliminary United States inquiry into the situation.

The same blockchain transactions related to this hack is also apparently tied to a second hack that occurred last October in which $23 million was stolen, as per a confidential report by independent sanctions monitors to U.N. Security Council members.

“Preliminary analysis, based on the attack vectors and subsequent efforts to launder the illicit proceeds, strongly suggests links to the DPRK,” the monitors wrote. DPRK is North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

They also accused Pyongyang of using the stolen funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to circumvent sanctions that they have been subject to since 2006.

Seychelles-based KuCoin is expected to be the victim of the digital currency heist here, which is not named in the report but reported a theft of $281 million in digital currencies on Sept. 25 with no other significant hacks occurring during that period.

“According to sources familiar with both hacks, the attackers exploited ‘defi’ protocols — i.e., smart contracts that facilitate automated transactions.”

80% of the stolen funds were reported to be recovered by KuCoin after other exchanges froze the funds.

North Korea-linked hackers continued targeting financial institutions and digital currency platforms last year, as noted by the latest report from the U.N. sanctions monitors which reads, “A clear trend in 2020 was that the DPRK cyber actors have been conducting attacks against defense industries around the globe.”

North Korea has generated an estimated $2 billion using “widespread and increasingly sophisticated” cyberattacks to steal from cryptocurrency exchanges and banks, the monitors reported in 2019.

The latest report said, “According to one member state, the DPRK total theft of virtual assets, from 2019 to November 2020” was approximately $316.4 million.

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