North Korea calls US ‘hacking empire’ in entertaining crypto theft denial

North Korea has denied it stole $400 million in crypto before rattling off a list of US cyberattacks, citing "Russian experts" and Newsweek.

In a fun display of whataboutism, Pyongyang has branded the United States a “hacking empire and country of intelligence theft” after it was reported that North Korean hackers stole $400 million in crypto last year.

Blockchain analytics unit Chainalysis showed North Korean cyber-crooks carried out at least seven attacks on crypto companies in 2021, mostly centralized exchanges and crypto investment firms.

This represents a 40% increase on 2020 and perpetuates a long-running crypto extraction campaign North Korea has waged over the past few years.

The UN has complained for years that Pyongyang leverages stolen crypto to fund weapons programmes, including its nuclear ambitions, and often references Chainalysis’ research.

“The United States is making a fuss from the outset of the New Year, widely publicizing our ‘cryptocurrency theft’ and ‘cyber-attack’ on other countries,” reads the statement (via Korea Herald).

“This is a ‘creation’ that could only be produced by the US hardened to the marrow with the inveterate repugnance towards our country.”

In July, VICE reported how North Korean hackers allegedly got away with stealing more than $1.3 billion from banks and crypto exchanges.

The ministry cited National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations, specifically his testimony which claimed the US was the first country to launch an international cyberattack.

This was a reference to Stuxnet, the premiere cyberweapon leveraged by the US to debilitate Iranian uranium enrichment plants in 2010.

Korea Herald’s translation of North Korea’s statement (found on the foreign ministry’s website) labels the US “a state of the world’s gravest cybercrimes” with a history of “abusing the cyberspace” and “pursuing its hegemony.”

“The American despicable acts of publicizing the sophistries of our ‘cyber-attack’ and ‘cryptocurrency theft’ are intended for tarnishing the prestige of our state as well as for seriously threatening and challenging our sovereignty, and therefore, we will never overlook these acts.”

In a bid to deflect heat, the statement then rattled off a timeline of alleged US-linked cyberattacks, citing “Russian experts” and American tabloid Newsweek.

North Korea’s taste for crypto widens beyond Bitcoin

Chainalysis, which produces annual reports on the crypto exploits of North Korean hackers, is well-known for its lucrative government contracts.

The firm has worked with practically every US agency over the past few years, from the Secret Service to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

These ties to the US government are clearly not lost on Pyongyang.

North Korea’s state-sponsored hackers once seemed to steal only Bitcoin. Now, they’re really into Ether and various altcoins (source).

Read more: [North Korean hackers could grind crypto games for weapons, experts warn]

DPRK-sponsored hackers have historically favored Bitcoin. However, the latest Chainalysis research indicates they’re now focused on Ether, ERC-20 tokens, and various altcoins.

In fact, for the first time last year, Ether made up the majority of funds stolen (58%) while Bitcoin contributed just 20%.

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