A report by Chainalysis, a blockchain analysis firm has revealed that North Korea launched at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms extracting nearly $400 million worth of digital assets last year.
The targets of the hacks were not identified, but the report noted that the victims were basic investment firms and centralized exchanges, including Liquid.com. The exchange company had announced in August that an unauthorized user had accessed some of the cryptocurrency wallets it managed.
The hackers were said to have used phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering to steal organizations’ internet-connected ‘hot’ wallets funds. The funds were traced to North Korea-controlled addresses.
Last year, the US charged three North Korean computer programmers – working for the Asian country’s intelligence service, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, – accusing them of years-long hacking spree, aimed at stealing more than $1.3 billion in money and cryptocurrency, from companies, banks and Hollywood movie studios.
Chainalysis explained that the hacking group, the Lazarus Group likely carried out the majority of last year’s cyberattacks. According to the United States, the group is controlled by the North Korean intelligence.
The Lazarus Group had faced accusations of being involved in attacks on International banks and customer accounts, including an earlier 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment using the “WannaCry” ransomware.
The report added that 2021 was one of the most successful years on record for crypto hackers and cyber attackers.
It should be recalled that Investors King reported that CheckPoint Solutions Technology said Africa has about 1,600 cyber attacks in the year under review, while North America records about 497 attacks weekly. Weekly attacks globally amount to a total of 5,193 as Asia records 1,299 attacks, Latin America (1,117), and Europe with 665 attacks
“From 2020 to 2021, the number of North Korean-linked hacks jumped from four to seven, and the value extracted from these hacks grew by 40%. Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out,” the Chainalysis report noted.
Some of the hackers are still said to be sitting on the stolen funds, not spending them, in hopes that they could outwit law enforcement’s interest before cashing out.
However, According to United Nations experts monitoring sanctions on North Korea, the country has used stolen funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to circumvent sanctions. The Asian country also appeared to step up efforts to launder stolen cryptocurrency, by significantly increasing its use of mixers, or software tools that pool and scramble cryptocurrencies from thousands of addresses, Chainalysis said.
Researchers had also identified $170 million in old, unlaundered cryptocurrency holdings from 49 separate hacks spanning from 2017 to 2021, the report added.
North Korea has still not responded to media inquiries, but has previously released statements denying allegations of hacking. Without any official word for the cyber attacks traced to the country, “Whatever the reason may be, the length of time that (North Korea) is willing to hold on to these funds is illuminating, because it suggests a careful plan, not a desperate and hasty one,” Chainalysis concluded.
Government Revenue Surges to N2.07trn in January 2024, FAAC Discloses
The Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) has revealed a significant surge in government revenue to N2.07 trillion in January 2024.
This substantial increase reflects the buoyancy of Nigeria’s economic activities despite various challenges faced by the nation.
According to FAAC’s communiqué issued after its monthly meeting in Abuja, the N2.07 trillion revenue was distributed to meet the financial needs of the federal, state, and local governments.
N1.15 trillion out of the total revenue was disbursed to the various tiers of government, indicating a robust financial inflow.
The breakdown of the revenue distribution showcased that the Federal Government received N407.267 billion, state governments obtained N379.407 billion while N278.041 billion was disbursed to local governments.
Also, N85.101 billion, equivalent to 13% of mineral revenue, was allocated to the states as derivation revenue.
FAAC also highlighted that the revenue composition included N463.1 billion from distributable statutory revenue, N391.8 billion from distributable Value Added Tax (VAT) revenue, N15.9 billion from Electronic Money Transfer Levy revenue, and N279.03 billion from exchange difference revenue.
Despite the impressive revenue figures, FAAC noted a decrease in VAT collection by N71.7 billion compared to the previous month.
This decrease suggests fluctuations in consumer spending and economic activities, which could be influenced by various factors such as policy changes, economic conditions, and consumer sentiment.
Furthermore, FAAC reported increases in revenue from Companies Income Tax, Import Duty, Petroleum Profit Tax, and Oil and Gas Royalties.
However, revenue from Value Added Tax, Export Duty, Electronic Money Transfer Levy, and CET Levies experienced declines during the period.
FAAC’s disclosure of the January 2024 revenue underscores the importance of prudent financial management and effective allocation of resources to drive sustainable economic growth and development in Nigeria.
Private Sector Credit Hits Record High of N76.94 Trillion in January 2024 – CBN Report
Private sector credit in Nigeria reached a record N76.94 trillion in January 2024, according to the latest report from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
This represents a 85.2% year-on-year increase from N41.54 trillion reported in January 2023.
The CBN’s Money and Credit Statistics report unveiled that credit to the private sector experienced a substantial month-on-month surge of 23.06%, or N14.42 trillion, from N62.52 trillion in December 2023.
This surge occurred amid the implementation of the CBN’s policy to unify the naira exchange rate.
Analysts attribute the reported N76.94 trillion credit to the private sector to the recent depreciation of the naira against foreign currencies.
The naira closed at N1,356.88 per dollar in January 2024, representing a 50.87% decline or N457.49 against the dollar compared to December 2023.
This depreciation compelled banks to extend credit to major corporations to meet the CBN’s mandated Loan-to-Deposit Ratio (LDR) threshold.
The CBN’s decision to resume the enforcement of the LDR policy, effective July 31, 2023, further propelled banks to increase lending to customers, stimulating the real sector of the economy.
With the CRR mechanism updated, banks with an LDR below the prescribed level faced a 50% lending shortfall penalty.
Experts suggest that the significant increase in private sector credit underscores the growing need for businesses to secure funds amidst economic uncertainties and exchange rate volatility.
It also signifies banks’ efforts to comply with regulatory requirements and support economic growth initiatives.
As Nigeria navigates its economic landscape, stakeholders anticipate further developments in credit dynamics and monetary policies to sustain financial stability and stimulate economic expansion.
Senate Initiates Probe into N30tn Ways and Means Loans under Buhari Administration
The Nigerian Senate has embarked on a comprehensive investigation into the disbursement and utilization of the N30 trillion Ways and Means loans obtained by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) during the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Ways and Means facility allows the CBN to provide financial support to the government to cover budget shortfalls.
The decision to probe the massive loans comes amid concerns about the transparency and accountability surrounding the utilization of these funds, particularly as the country grapples with economic challenges, food crises, rising inflation, and worsening insecurity.
The Senate’s investigation aims to shed light on how the substantial overdrafts from the CBN were acquired and expended under the leadership of former President Buhari.
There is growing apprehension that the indiscriminate spending of the overdrafts, particularly during Godwin Emefiele’s tenure as CBN governor, may have contributed significantly to the current economic predicament facing the nation.
The probe will delve into the details of the N30 trillion overdrafts, with a specific focus on examining the purpose for which the funds were allocated and how they were utilized.
Also, the Senate will scrutinize the N10 trillion disbursed under the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, as well as the utilization of $2.4 billion out of the $7 billion earmarked for forex transactions.
The initiative underscores the Senate’s commitment to ensuring transparency, fiscal responsibility, and prudent financial management in the country’s economic affairs.
It is anticipated that the probe will unearth vital insights into the financial transactions of the past administration, enabling corrective measures to be taken to address any mismanagement or discrepancies discovered.
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