Crypto hacks climbed to a record $3.8 billion in 2022, Chainalysis said in a report.
Groups linked to North Korea ripped off nearly half that value, taking $1.7 billion.
Among the largest hackers was Lazarus Group, which was identified as a key player in the break-in of Axie Infinity's Ronin network.
Hackers ripped off more than $3 billion from cryptocurrency businesses last year, with more than half of that amount stolen by groups linked to North Korea, according to Chainalysis.
Topping the most prolific hackers is Lazarus Group, the North Korea-based cybercriminal syndicate the US Treasury said was linked to last year's $620 million crypto heist from Axie Infinity's Ronin blockchain network.
North Korea-linked hackers "shattered their own records for theft" in lifting roughly $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrency across several hacks, the blockchain analysis firm said in its report this week. It noted experts believe the North Korean government which is under sanctions for its nuclear weapons activity is using stolen crypto to fund its nuclear weapons program.
"For context, North Korea's total exports in 2020 totalled $142 million worth of goods, so it isn't a stretch to say that cryptocurrency hacking is a sizable chunk of the nation's economy," Chainalysis said.
$1.1 billion of crypto stolen by North Korea-linked groups was swiped in hacks of DeFi, or decentralized finance, protocols. DeFi protocols were the largest victims last year with $3.1 billion stolen and accounting for 82.1% of all cryptocurrency ripped off by hackers. That marks a jump from 73.3% in 2021.
Chainalysis said outside of DeFi protocols, North Korea-linked hackers also send large sums to crypto mixers. Mixers blend cryptocurrencies from many users to shield from where the funds came and who owns them.