North Korean hackers could grind crypto games for weapons, experts warn

If North Korean hackers start grinding play-to-earn crypto games like Axie, experts anticipate they'll deploy code to automate in-game tasks.

A Washington-based think tank has warned that North Korean hackers could start grinding crypto-powered play-to-earn (P2E) games to fund the nation’s weapons programs.

P2E games, which generate crypto for players, present Pyongyang the ideal opportunity to rake in digital assets with relatively little effort, reports The Diplomat citing the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

Players leverage in-game mechanics to earn tokens, which they then sell on crypto exchanges. Some P2E games pay players directly in NFTs, but generally they eke rewards in their respective native tokens.

Axie Infinite is currently the biggest play-to-earn token by market cap, followed by metaverse project The Sandbox.

North Korean hackers stole $400M in crypto last year

In 2011, Seoul police uncovered a joint operation between both sides of the border that saw South Korean nationals travel to China to collect infected software from North Korean operatives.

Hackers then used the software to snare personal data of more than 600,000 South Korean citizens. This scheme reportedly raked in at least 6.4 billion Korean won ($5.4 million).

Indeed, North Korea has historically stolen from banks, crypto exchanges, and individuals with a slew of highly sophisticated cyberattacks.

Recent estimates suggest North Korean cyber-baddies swiped nearly $400 million worth of digital assets from crypto platforms last year across seven incidents.

Read more: [‘A slow rug pull’: Traders reject play-to-earn crypto shilled by Ice Cube]

According to blockchain analytics unit Chainalysis, state-sponsored Lazarus Group is thought to have perpetrated the bulk of those attacks.

This hacker collective is believed linked to Pyongyang’s intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

North Korean meddling in P2E games hasn’t been yet confirmed. But if it happens, experts anticipate its hackers will deploy code that automates in-game tasks to earn crypto.

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