A new report from blockchain analytics firm, Chainalysis, has revealed that North Korean hackers stole more Ethereum than any other digital asset in 2021. These cybercriminals now appear to have changed their targets from corporations and ransomware to cryptocurrency exchanges.
North Korean Hackers Prefer Ethereum
In 2021, the state-sponsored hackers launched at least seven attacks and stole almost $400 million worth of digital assets. The hacks focused on centralized exchanges and investment firms, with funds siphoned out of the hot wallets of these organizations into state-controlled wallets.
Perhaps what’s most notable about the attacks was the tokens stolen. 58% of stolen assets were Ethereum, and Bitcoin was only 20%. The rest were ERC-20 tokens and altcoins.
Chainalysis identified Lazarus as the most notorious of the several groups behind this attack. The group, sponsored by the North Korean intelligence unit, first became popular in 2018 after the WannaCry and Sony Pictures attacks.
It also discovered that the stolen digital assets were usually laundered using multiple mixers and decentralized exchanges to hide their trail. However, the hackers still hold about $170 million of unlaundered digital assets, some for up to 6 years.
It should be noted that the growing rate of cybercrimes involving crypto has become a huge cause for concern.
While it accounts for a small percentage of financial crimes or even crypto transactions, these attacks have led to renewed calls for regulations by several government stakeholders.
Why They Might be Targeting Ethereum
This report shows the role that decentralized exchanges unwittingly play in facilitating these crimes. Since Ether is the native currency on Ethereum, where most of these DEXs and mixers are, it’s understandable why hackers prefer it. But this could have serious implications as more countries attempt to regulate the crypto space.
Regulating the decentralized finance sector might be a little tricky given its permissionless nature. Though regulations in the crypto space is still very much in its early stages, it may take a while before regulatory activity shifts to DeFi.