North Korean Crypto Heists: Protecting Japan’s Booming Blockchain Economy

Intricate cybercrime scene, moody lighting, artistic manga style, urban Tokyo background, hidden hackers in shadows, anxious investors, looming missile imagery, contrast of innovation and threat, determined Japanese regulators, ominous North Korean atmosphere.

Since 2017, North Korean hackers have allegedly pilfered a staggering $721 million from Japan, accounting for 30% of the crypto thefts worldwide. This is part of a larger pattern where North Korea uses hacking and ransomware tactics to steal cryptocurrency assets, particularly in Japan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong, the leading Asian crypto hubs.

Lazarus Group, a North Korean-based hacker group, has had its blockchain wallet transactions tracked by analysis firm Elliptic. Out of the total $3 billion in stolen cryptocurrency, Japan bore the largest portion of the loss, followed by Vietnam ($540 million), the U.S. ($497 million), and Hong Kong ($281 million).

For 2022, Elliptic estimates the stolen crypto money to reach $640 million—a significant increase from the previous year. The U.N. Security Council panel of experts reports that crypto theft has doubled since 2021, with North Korea suspected of stealing between $600 million and $1 billion in cryptocurrency.

As part of the effort to combat this growing threat, the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors have acknowledged the risk posed by state actors engaging in illicit activities, such as cryptocurrency theft. In response to this issue, Pyongyang has targeted crypto assets in countries like Vietnam and Hong Kong, hoping to fund its missile programs.

Despite the risks, Japan remains at the forefront of the cryptocurrency revolution. The country boasts a favorable regulatory environment, with strong backing from both government and financial sectors. A research report suggests that around 5 million people, or 4% of Japan’s total population, currently own cryptocurrency.

The Japanese government has also taken a proactive approach to regulate the crypto market, and the Financial Services Agency (FSA) carries out measures aimed at protecting investors and preventing money laundering and other illicit activities. In 2021, the FSA even suspended crypto exchange FTX Japan.

While being at the forefront of cryptocurrency adoption offers countless benefits, this progress can also attract threats, as seen with the North Korean hackers. The challenge here is to maintain a balance between fostering a supportive environment for cryptocurrency innovation and ensuring stringent security measures are in place to protect the interests of all parties involved—government, financial institutions, and individual investors.

It’s crucial for anyone investing in cryptocurrencies to remain well-informed and conduct thorough research before taking any financial risk. The responsibility to make informed decisions ultimately lies with the individual investor, and no author or publication can guarantee safety in this volatile market.

Source: Coingape

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