North Korean Hackers Accused of Stealing Million in Cryptocurrency

North Korean hacking program has a long history, starting from the mid-1990s. It is reportedly a source of employment for about 6,000 people in cyber warfare units or Bureau 121. A US military report of 2020 reveals that the cybercriminal bureau operates in numerous countries, including India, China, Malaysia, Russia, and Belarus.

The United States has connected North Korean hackers to millions of dollars of cryptocurrency filch that shocked crypto traders last month. The hacking reportedly targeted the players of the Axie Infinity game on the Ronin network. This blockchain project allows crypto users to send cryptocurrency in and out of the Axie Infinity game. 

The hacking of Ronin turned out to be one of the biggest robberies in the crypto industry. It raised several questions about security in a relevantly new industry that recently started bursting into the mainstream because of the promises of untold wealth in celebrity promotions. According to the statement released by the FBI, the investigation confirmed that APT38 and Lazarus Group, who belong to North Korea, are the primary cyber culprits of the theft.  

In 2014, the mention of Lazarus Group came into prominence when Sony Pictures Entertainment’s satirical film, The Interview, mocked Kim Jong Un, a North Korean leader. The cybercriminal group reportedly robbed the production as revenge. It is also known for ransomware attacks – the WannaCry. Lazarus Group also got the accusation of hacking several global banks and customer accounts in previous years.

According to a Treasury Department representative, the US administration knows that the DPRK increasingly relies on illegal activities, including cybercrime to make money for its ballistic missile programs and weapons of mass destruction as it has a direct connection to avoid vigorous US and UN authorization.

The FBI statement says DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Ethereum is a technology platform connected with a type of virtual currency. The FBI referred to the recent theft of a computer network of Axie Infinity. It is a popular video game that lets players make money in cryptocurrency.

In the latest crypto hit, the attackers benefited from the flaws in the setup placed by Sky Mavis, the Vietnam-based company behind the Axie Infinity game. The firm had a problem with the ethereum blockchain, where users log transactions in the ether cryptocurrency. It is an expensive yet slow project to use.

Sky Mavis developed an in-game currency to allow game players to buy and sell at a better speed using a sidechain and bridge to the primary ethereum blockchain. The step resulted in a faster and cheaper transaction, though it lacked enough security.  The game developer company announced on 29 March 2022 that unknown hackers had robbed about $600 million on 23 March from the network that allows players to transfer digital coins from one blockchain to another. 

The hackers pinpointed its blockchain, which had stored 173,600 ether and stablecoin worth $25.5 million. It is interesting to find out the North Korean hackers robbed $620 in digital currency in a single attempt.

Reports say the US is after the UN Security Council to steer clear of these cybercriminals and freeze their assets.The US Treasury Department certified Lazarus Group, which works for the North Korean government. It sanctioned the specific cryptocurrency address used to cash out on the video game hack.

According to the UN panel and outside, cyber-attacks have been a significant source of income for North Korea since its leader Kim Jong Un continues to chase nuclear weapons. It is worth mentioning that the country fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile after more than four years.

On the other hand, Chainalysis, a company responsible for tracking digital currency transactions, said Lazarus Group has held up about $1.75 billion in cryptocurrency in recent years.