Home News Science&Tech How do you steal 2 billion euros with cyber attacks?

How do you steal 2 billion euros with cyber attacks?

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North Korean cyber experts have illegally captured an estimated 2 billion euros with cyber attacks. The country invests that stolen money in the North Korean nuclear weapons program. The United Nations comes to that conclusion in a report, which is in the hands of AP and Reuters news agencies.

According to the report, North Korea is hacking banks and stock exchanges to steal crypto currency. How do you do that, stealing billions with cyber attacks?

Trade platforms are poorly secured

“Stealing money at a crypto is easier than you would hope,” says crypto expert and ING economist Teunis Brosens. A crypto exchange is an online platform on which crypto currency is traded and stored. Users have their own password, but the stock market keeps all the digital money in a collective account behind the scenes.

“The hackers only have to crack the password of that collective account to be able to channel all the money away to their own wallet.”

According to Brosens, the security of some crypto fairs leaves something to be desired, to say the least. “The platform must look slick and it must be easy to act. These two issues have priority. Safety comes last.” Crypto analyst Madelon Vos agrees. “The crypto industry is a fast market. Stock market developers are more interested in a nice and well-functioning product than in safety. If they do not act quickly, they will lose their market share.”

High-level hacks

However, that does not mean that anyone with a computer can hack a crypto exchange. According to the UN report, North Korea’s actions were of a high level and difficult to stop. The thefts were also difficult to trace because the money was laundered online.

Especially the latter is not easy with crypto currency, Vos explains. All transactions can be traced. But hackers won’t let that stop them. One of the methods used is to add many intermediate steps by repeatedly transferring crypto coins from one wallet to another.

Another method is called the ‘crypto washing machine’. A stolen coin is then ‘mixed’ with other coins, so that it is ultimately no longer possible to trace which coin comes from. “Hackers can cut the transactions into small pieces, which is also difficult to trace. Subsequently, those small pieces are sold for dollars on all kinds of different stock exchanges.”

The hacks are of course no advertisement for the crypto industry, but according to Vos and Brosens they also do no major damage. “The ideal of crypto currency is to function without government,” Brosens explains. “The attitude is: we can do it ourselves. But due to the lack of a supervisor there is also less need to put the security in order.”

However, according to Brosens, they get away with it: stock exchanges that have had to deal with large hacks suffer little damage afterwards.

“For people in the crypto currency it is also a bit part of it.”

How do you ensure that your crypto currency is not stolen? Vos advises crypto investors to keep coins under their own management, exactly as originally intended. “A stock market is easy, because you can log in with a simple password. But that is exactly what makes it unsafe. You must remain responsible for the proper and safe management of your currency.”

Brosens has another tip: spread your risks across different currencies and stock markets.

“And above all important: do research. Immerse yourself thoroughly in the material. Check whether scholarships are hacked, or you read bad stories. Don’t just trust everyone’s blue eyes.”

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