The FBI revealed Thursday, that the North Korean government associated with hackers stole more than $600 million in cryptocurrencies last month from a video game company.
“Through our investigation we were able to confirm Lazarus Group and APT38, cyber actors associated with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], are responsible for the theft of $620 million in Ethereum reported on March 29,” the FBI said in a statement.
Sky Mavis video game company, owned by Axie Infinity, which allows players to earn cryptocurrencies, announced on March 29 that it suffered the theft, according to CNN.
The FBI believes the recent attack is not the only one carried out by Kim Jong Un’s government. The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned the “wallet,” or cryptocurrency address of Lazarus Group, hackers believed to be working on behalf of the North Korean government, in North Korea.
Kim Jong Un has reportedly been conducting several cyber attacks, as a source of income in order to develop his nuclear weapons, according to a United Nations panel and independent cybersecurity experts, CNN reported.
So far, Lazarus Group is responsible for the estimated theft of 1.75 billion dollars in cryptocurrencies in recent years. Also, Lazarus Group in 2014 was accused of hacking Sony Pictures and publicly leaking confidential data.
The group demanded that Sony pull its upcoming film The Interview, a satirical comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korea’s cybercrime allegedly dates back to the mid-1990s and has grown into a 6,000-strong cyberwarfare unit, known as Bureau 121, which operates from several countries, including Belarus, China, India, Malaysia and Russia, a 2020 U.S. military report explains, according to BBC.
In 2021, North Korea conducted at least seven attacks on cryptocurrency platforms.
Blockchain Analytics Elliptic found that Lazarus Group managed to launder 18% of its stolen funds on April 14.
In this context, earlier this week, Virgil Griffith, a 39-year-old U.S. crypto expert, was sentenced to five years in prison for helping North Korea use virtual currencies to evade sanctions, according to CNBC.
The latest reports say the hackers exchanged the stolen cryptocurrencies for ether through unregulated exchanges to avoid seizure, then laundered nearly 17 million cryptocurrencies through centralized exchanges on FTX and Huobi.
Elliptic disclosed that so far, the hackers used a “mixer”, a service that mixes the flow of transactions and was thus able to hide the trail of $80 million.