US points to group linked to North Korea on Axi Infinity hack

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The United States last month linked the Lazarus Group, an online crime consortium linked to the North Korean government, to hacking $540 million of online game Axie Infinity. The theft, infiltrating the network on which the game runs, was the biggest theft in the 13-year history of cryptocurrencies. The criminals stole 173,600 Ether and 25.5 million worth of stablecoins USD Coin, or USDC, at the time of the attack, worth approximately $540 million.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control maintains a database of sanctioned groups with whom it is illegal to do business. On Thursday, the agency updated the sanctions to say that Grupo owns the cryptocurrency address used in the Lazarus hack.

A Treasury spokesman said the North Korean government relied on illegal activities, including cybercrime, to generate revenue for its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. Axi-Hack Wallet was discovered through a joint investigation by the Treasury Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Since converting stolen funds into cash requires laundering, the spokesperson added that crypto companies that enforce anti-money laundering laws are a “significant choke point” to block the movement of these funds. In addition, anyone doing business with an approved portfolio would risk exposure to US sanctions.

According to cryptocurrency forensics firm Chainalysis, the Lazarus Group is a consortium of cybercriminals acting on behalf of the North Korean government. Chainalysis estimates that the group stole approximately $1.75 billion worth of cryptocurrencies between 2017 and 2020, including the biggest hack of 2020, the $275 million KuCoin exchange hack.

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About the author: Sarah Gracie

"Proud social media buff. Unapologetic web scholar. Internet guru. Lifelong music junkie. Travel specialist."

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