North Korean Hackers: A Digital Asset Pilferage of Over $500 Million in 2023

In a concerning revelation, blockchain intelligence firm TRM Labs has unveiled recent data indicating that hackers affiliated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) purloined over half a billion dollars in digital assets during the year 2023. This startling figure, detailed in a study by the crypto analytics platform, underscores the persistent threat posed by North Korean actors in the cryptocurrency space.

Exceeding $500 Million in Digital Asset Thefts

According to the findings, DPRK-linked hackers managed to siphon off $600 million worth of cryptocurrency throughout the course of last year. Alarming indicators towards the end of December suggest that the actual total might soar even higher, potentially reaching $700 million.

A Noteworthy Reduction from 2022

The report highlights that despite a 30% reduction from the significant $850 million haul in 2022, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remained accountable for almost a third of all funds stolen in cryptocurrency attacks last year. The hacks attributed to the DPRK proved to be, on average, ten times more detrimental than those not associated with North Korea. The cumulative loss to Pyongyang-linked threat actors since 2017 is estimated to be nearly $3 billion.

Utilization of Crypto Mixing Tools

The study delves into the tactics employed by North Korean hackers, emphasizing their use of crypto mixing tools to camouflage illicit activities from law enforcement. When their preferred tools face sanctions, these hackers swiftly transition to alternative crypto tumblers, exemplifying a dynamic strategy to evade scrutiny.

Evolution of Money Laundering Methods

As US sanctions and enforcement actions targeted previous obfuscation platforms like Tornado Cash and ChipMixer, North Korea seamlessly shifted to another mixer, namely the BTC service Sinbad. Despite Sinbad facing sanctions by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in November 2023, North Korea continued exploring alternative laundering tools, showcasing their adaptability in the face of international pressure.

Persistent Cryptocurrency Wallet Hacking

TRM Labs concludes its report by asserting that North Korea is poised to persist in hacking cryptocurrency wallets throughout 2024. This forecast raises concerns about the ongoing resilience and adaptability of DPRK-affiliated hackers despite international efforts to curb their activities.

Recurring Threats and Substantial Losses

It’s noteworthy that this is not the first time TRM Labs has highlighted the menace posed by North Korean hackers. Previous findings by the intelligence firm indicated that these hackers had successfully looted around $2 billion worth of virtual currencies over the past five years, illustrating a recurring and escalating threat.


The data presented by TRM Labs paints a grim picture of the sustained threat emanating from North Korean hackers in the realm of digital assets. As these threat actors continuously adapt their tactics, the international community faces an ongoing challenge in mitigating the risks associated with DPRK-affiliated cyber activities. The urgency to bolster cybersecurity measures and international cooperation in combating such threats remains paramount in safeguarding the integrity of the cryptocurrency space.

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