North Korean hackers are among the biggest losers in the crypto crash, as the secretive nation relies heavily on ill-gotten digital gains for foreign exchange.
Its cryptocurrency holdings have decreased in value from $170 million to $65 million since the beginning of the year, according to New York-based blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.
The firm included funds stolen in 49 hacks from 2017 to 2021.
North Korea has poured resources into stealing crypto in recent years, making it a potent hacking threat and leading to one of the largest cryptocurrency heists on record in March, in which almost $615 million was stolen, according to the US Treasury.
Sudden Crypto Crash
The sudden crypto crash, which started in May amid a broader economic slowdown, complicates Pyongyang’s ability to fund its weapons programmes, two South Korean government sources said.
It comes as North Korea tests a record number of missiles – which the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul estimates have cost as much as $620 million so far this year – and prepares to resume nuclear testing amid an economic crisis.
One of North Korea’s caches from a 2021 heist, which had been worth tens of millions of dollars, has lost 80-85% of its value in the crypto crash of the past few weeks and is now worth less than $10 million, said Nick Carlsen, an analyst with TRM Labs.
A person who answered the phone at the North Korean embassy in London said he could not comment on the crash because allegations of cryptocurrency hacking are “totally fake news”.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell