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North Korean Hackers Siphon Cryptocurrencies Worth $400m in 2021

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Cyber Security - Investors King

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.

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Banking Sector

FBN Holdings Reports 49% Increase in Profit in H1 2022

FBN Holdings Plc has reported a 48.9% increase in profit after tax for the first half (H1) of 2022.

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Nnamdi Okonkwo

FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, has reported a 48.9% increase in profit after tax for the first half (H1) of 2022.

The financial services provider announced gross earnings of N359.2 billion for the period under review, an increase of 22.4% when compared to the N293.4 billion recorded in the first half of 2021.

Interest income jumped 40.6% from N161 billion achieved in H1 2021 to N226.4 billion. While the Group’s net interest income rose a whopping 47.3% to N152.9 billion, up from N103.8 billion in H1 2021.

Non-interest income remained largely unchanged at N120.6 billion, a 0.2% decline from N120.9 billion posted in the corresponding period of 2021.

FBN Holdings’ operating income expanded by 21.7% to N273.5 billion from N224.7 billion in H1 2021. The lender’s impairment charges improved by 18.7% to N21.7 billion, down from N26.7 billion in the same period of 2021.

As expected, operating expenses inched higher to N186 billion from N152.6 billion recorded in H1 2021. Profit before tax stood at N65.7 billion a 45.3% increase from N45.2 billion filed in H1 2021.

The total profit realised for the period grew by 48.6% from N38.1 billion in H1 2021 to N56.5 billion in H1 2022.

Earnings per share also rose 48% to N1.55 from N1.05.

Speaking on the group performance, Nnamdi Okonkwo, the Group Managing Director said “FBNHoldings continues to demonstrate resilient performance despite the challenging operating environment with an impressive improvement in revenue and profitability. For the half year 2022, gross earnings and profit before tax grew by 22% y-o-y and 45% y-o-y to N359.2 billion and N65.7 billion respectively. Furthermore, we continue to see good progress across our performance metrics, which remain in line with our focus on driving sustainable growth.

“The Group remains committed in its transformation drive, which has resulted in stronger balance sheet and better asset quality with non-performing loans closing at 5.4% at H1 2022. Similarly, risk management capability remains robust across the Group supporting the drive for enhanced earnings for sustainable capital accretion.

“During the period, cost to income ratio remained flat y-o-y despite the inflationary and currency pressure, as we continue to focus on optimising overall efficiency.

“Our strategic intent remains unchanged in optimising opportunities that drive growth in revenue, profitability, capital accretion and overall operational efficiency that delivers sustainable value to our stakeholders.”

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Finance

Nigeria’s External Debt Rises by N560 Billion on Weaker Naira

Nigeria’s total external debt has increased by N560.048 billion in the last eight months, according to the analysis done by Investors King.

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debt

Nigeria’s total external debt has increased by N560.048 billion in the last eight months, according to the analysis done by Investors King.

Economic uncertainty amid chronic foreign exchange (forex) scarcity has plunged the Nigerian Naira from N414.11/US$1 recorded on 21st December 2021 to N428.122 as of August 4, 2022 at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) Forex Window, Nigeria’s official forex rate.

According to the latest Debt Management Office (DMO) report, Nigeria’s external debt stood at $39.969.19 billion as of March 31, 2022. A quick analysis revealed that $39.969.19 billion would have been N16.552 trillion in December 2021 if the nation’s exchange rate had remained at N414.11 to the U.S. Dollar.

However, because of the continuous decline in the value of the Nigerian Naira, the nation’s external debt now stood at N17.112 trillion, using the N428.122 exchange rate. This means the Nigerian nation has incurred a sum of N560.048 billion between December 21st, 2021 and August 4, 2022.

A breakdown of Nigeria’s external debt showed that Africa’s largest economy borrowed $18.957 billion or 47.43% of the total external debt from multilateral financial institutions, International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank Group. 

While the bilateral loan from China, France, Japan, India and Germany accounted for $4.495 billion or 11.25%. Nigeria raised $15.918 billion or 39.83%.

The country raised $15.918 billion or 39.83% via bonds. Promissory notes constituted $597.75 million or 1.50%.

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Banking Sector

FirstBank’s Firstmonie Agents Processed Over N22 Trillion in Transaction Value

FirstMonie Agents have processed over N22 trillion in combined transaction value.

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FirstBank New Website - Investors King






Nigeria’s leading financial services provider, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited on Thursday said its fast-growing agent banking network, Firstmonie Agents, has collectively processed over N22 trillion in transaction value.

The lender, which announced a profit after tax of N53.3 billion in the first half of the year, said Firstmonie Agents processed transaction volume in excess of 1 billion across all its 180,000 agents that operate in 772 local governments.

In an effort to bring financial services to the unbanked and underbanked segment of the Nigerian society, Firstmonie Agents was the first banking network to operate in all the local government areas, except the two local governments enmeshed in insecurity.

Since its launch, FirstMonie Agent Banking has been providing convenient banking services to Nigerians previously cut off from the financial system, playing a pivotal role in deepening financial inclusion and empowering existing businesses within the communities to deliver these services.

Popularly called ‘Human ATM’, Firstmonie Agents are empowered to reduce the reliance on over-the-counter transactions while providing convenient personalized services. Amongst the services carried out by the Agents include; Account Opening, Cash Deposit, Airtime Purchase, Bills Payment, Withdrawals and Money Transfer.

Through various empowerment and reward schemes implemented to put its Firstmonie Agents at an advantage to economically impact their immediate communities whilst importantly having their business sustained, the Bank’s Agent Banking scheme has remained a toast to Nigerians, irrespective of where they are in the country. Amongst these schemes is the Agent Credit – launched in 2020 – which has had the Bank provide credit facilities to the tune of 238 billion naira to its teeming Firstmonie Agents.

Commenting on the milestone, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, CEO, FirstBank said “since the relaunch of our Agent Banking scheme in 2018, our Firstmonie Agents have played a vital role in bridging the financial inclusion gap in the country, as many more people have been able to undertake various financial and business transactions in cost-effective ways, thereby saving a lot of time and money in travelling over long distances for basic banking services.“

“We are delighted by the giant strides of our Firstmonie Agents in promoting financial inclusion and commend them for their efforts in taking banking to the doorsteps of Nigerians – irrespective of where they are – in a very effective way”, he concluded.




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