A Verizon internet security report shows that state-sponsored hacking is becoming an increasingly larger part of global cybercrime, ZDNet reports, May 8, 2019. The Verizon report also showed that hackers prefer cryptocurrency to launder their stolen funds or to demand ransom payments.
State-Sponsored Hacking Becoming a Clear & Present Danger
In a report titled “Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR),” researchers at Verizon say that incidents of state-sponsored hacking have increased in 2019. According to the report, hackers affiliated to nation states accounted for 23 percent of the data breaches recorded by the research team.
Verizon says 2019’s figures constitute a significant increase from the 12 percent and 19 percent recorded in 2018 and 2017 respectively. The research team based its findings on the analysis of more than 40,000 cybersecurity incidents and 2,000 data breaches reported so far in 2019.
Commenting on the findings, Gabe Bassett of Verizon said that the rise in state-sponsored cybercrime pointed towards the emergence of digital espionage. Bassett said the research team discovered many of the attack vectors targeting intellectual property of multinational companies.
Hackers Favor Cryptocurrency
Concerning the role of cryptocurrencies, the report declared hackers preferred bitcoin and other digital currencies either to launder stolen funds or to demand as ransom. An excerpt from the report reads:
“This is in large part why attackers often favor cryptocurrency, as is it can be laundered and transferred for relatively low cost and presents negligible risk.”
Several cybersecurity firms say ransomware and cryptojacking are among some of the leading threats in the digital landscape. Verizon ranked ransomware as the second most popular type of malware, accounting for about 24 percent of all recorded cases.
However, the Verizon security report did highlight that hackers faced issues with using cryptocurrencies based on the increasing level of Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) protocols being employed by exchanges around the world.
North Korea Using Bitcoin Hacking to Fund Nuclear Weapons Program
As reported by BTCManager, security experts believe that Pyongyang is sponsoring hackers to target cryptocurrency exchanges as a way of raising money for its nuclear weapons program. A UN report from mid-March 2019 alleged that Kim Jong-un’s administration has siphoned close to $700 million from its cyberattacks against bitcoin exchanges and financial institutions around the world.
North Korea-based Lazarus Group, one of the dreaded cybercrime syndicates in the world is reported to be at the head of the cryptocurrency hacking underworld. Several experts believe the Group orchestrated many of the well-known cryptocurrency exchange heists.
For North Korea, the pivot towards cybercrimes is borne out of crippling U.S. sanctions that have significantly reduced the country’s access to revenue streams.