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Crypto hacks in 2022 stole a record $3.8 billion, with North Korean groups leading the way.

A US-based blockchain analytics company said in a report on Wednesday that last year was the worst on record for cryptocurrency heists, with hackers stealing as much as $3.8 billion, led by attackers connected to North Korea who made more money than ever before.

Hacking activity "ebbed and flowed" throughout the year, with "huge spikes" in March and October, according to a Chainalysis report. According to the research, October was the single biggest month ever for cryptocurrency hacking, with $775.7 million stolen in 32 separate attacks.

In 2022, the cryptocurrency market struggled as risk appetite decreased and several crypto businesses went under. Regulators increased calls for greater consumer protection as a result of the significant losses suffered by investors.

At the time, Reuters received confirmation from Chainalysis and other companies that accounts related to North Korea had lost millions of dollars in value.

Hackers were not deterred, though.

The report stated that hackers with ties to North Korea, like those in the cybercrime organization Lazarus Group, have been by far the most prolific cryptocurrency hackers, stealing an estimated $1.7 billion in multiple attacks last year.

"In 2022, they shattered their own records for theft," it claimed.

Allegations of hacking or other cyberattacks have been refuted by North Korea.

An expert panel monitoring UN sanctions claims that North Korea has become more and more dependent on hacking to finance its missile and nuclear weapons programs, especially as publicly acknowledged trade has decreased as a result of sanctions and COVID-19 lockdowns.

According to Chainalysis, "it is not a stretch to say that cryptocurrency hacking is a significant chunk of the country's economy."

Last year, US law enforcement for the first time detained $30 million in funds stolen from hackers with ties to North Korea. 

Chainalysis predicted that "These hacks will get harder and less fruitful with each passing year."

More than 82% of the cryptocurrency stolen in 2022 was attributed to targets in "decentralized finance," or DeFi, a booming sector of the cryptocurrency industry, according to the report.

DeFi applications are financial platforms that allow lending in cryptocurrencies outside of conventional banks, with many of them running on the Ethereum blockchain.

According to Chainalysis, the total value of cryptocurrency transactions involving illegal activity reached a record high of $20.1 billion last year.


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