North Korean Crypto Hacks Hit Japan Hardest, Accounting for 30% of Global Total

North Korean hackers snatched $721 million in crypto from Japanese crypto investors.

Elliptic, a blockchain analytics company, revealed that Japan had been the most affected nation by North Korean cryptocurrency hackers. Interestingly, three of the top four countries most targeted by these cybercriminals are in Asia.

The research by Elliptic was initiated and reported by the Japanese financial outlet Nikkei to analyze the crypto losses tied to North Korea-related cyberattacks from 2017 to 2022. The study considered both hacking and ransomware attacks, referring to these activities as North Korea’s “national strategy.”

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According to the Elliptic data, Japan experienced losses of $721 million in these attacks, accounting for 30% of the global total of over $2.3 billion. The estimation is based on the projected $640 million of crypto losses in 2022 alone. 

The United Nations revealed that North Korean crypto theft reached an all-time high in 2022. As Nikkei reported:

Based on data from the Japan External Trade Organization, the $721 million stolen from Japan is 8.8 times greater than the value of North Korea’s exports in 2021.

The study indicated Vietnam as the second most affected country, with losses amounting to $540 million in the same period. The United States suffered the third highest losses at $497 million, with Hong Kong coming in fourth, enduring losses of $281 million.

The report claimed that the North Korean hackers are targeting the Japanese and Vietnamese cryptocurrency markets due to inadequate security measures. Nikkei quoted an anonymous source stating that at least three Japanese crypto exchanges were compromised between 2018 and 2021.

North Korea’s Lazarus Group is suspected of orchestrating some of the most significant crypto thefts, including the Ronin Bridge exploit and the Harmony Bridge hack. The group is also accused of stealing non-fungible tokens and laundering ill-gotten gains through decentralized finance (DeFi) services and cryptocurrency mixers like Tornado Cash.