North Korea Hackers Likely Exploit Cloud Mining to Launder Stolen Crypto, Research Shows

The APT43 group steals crypto to fund operations and launders it through cloud mining services.

AccessTimeIconMar 28, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 29, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. UTC

North Korean hacker group APT43 probably uses cloud mining services to launder stolen crypto, according to research by Google-owned cybersecurity firm Mandiant.

Cloud mining services own and operate infrastructure and rent out hashrate to users. Hashrate is a measure of the total amount of computer processing power to secure a cryptocurrency. APT43 uses stolen cryptocurrency to pay for these services and receives crypto not associated with the crime to wallets of its choice, according to the report released on Tuesday.

The group is "moderately sophisticated" and supports the strategic and nuclear objectives of the North Korean regime, according to Mandiant. It uses the proceeds from cybercrime to fund its operations, which target South Korean and U.S. government organizations, academics and think tanks focused on the geopolitics of the Korean peninsula, the report said.

To acquire the crypto, APT43 steals credentials, often by phishing attacks. That is, it creates legitimate-looking websites – for example, a site masquerading as a crypto exchange – and persuades unsuspecting users to reveal personal information.

North Korean hackers have been increasingly including crypto in their operations, often in high-profile digital heists like the $100 million Horizon Bridge theft, according to the FBI. Authorities around the world, particularly in the U.S. and South Korea, are trying to combat the threat.

Mandiant was acquired by Google and integrated into its cloud service in September 2022.

Edited by Sheldon Reback.


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Eliza Gkritsi

Eliza Gkritsi is a CoinDesk contributor focused on the intersection of crypto and AI.