The FBI has claimed hackers with links to North Korea’s government stole more than $600 million in cryptocurrency from a gaming company last month.
In a statement released on Thursday, 14 April, the FBI said their investigation confirmed hacker groups Lazarus Group and APT38 – both of which are associated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – were responsible.
The theft amounted to more than $620 million in Ethereum, a platform that hosts cryptocurrency.
A statement released on the FBI’s official website read: “Through our investigation we were able to confirm Lazarus Group and APT38, cyber actors associated with the DPRK, are responsible for the theft of $620 million in Ethereum reported on March 29th.”
It continued: “The FBI, in coordination with Treasury and other U.S. government partners, will continue to expose and combat the DPRK’s use of illicit activities – including cybercrime and cryptocurrency theft – to generate revenue for the regime.”
Hackers are said to have taken around $620 million worth of Ethereum and $25.5 million worth of cryptocurrency USD Coin.
The cryptocurrencies were stolen from crypto game Axie Infinity’s blockchain, CNN reports.
On 29 March, Sky Davis, the company that operates Axie Infinity, announced hackers had stolen the money using a ‘bridge’, which is a network that allows the transfer of cryptocurrency between blockchains, according to The Verge.
Sky Mavis said it’s ‘working with law enforcement officials, forensic cryptographers, and investors to make sure there is no loss of user funds’. The Lazarus Group was sanctioned by the US Treasury Department on Thursday.
In 2021, blockchain experts Chainalysis predicted that North Korean-linked hackers had stolen $400m worth of digital assets that year alone.
Released in January, Chainalysis’ analysis read: “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 percent.
“Once North Korea gained custody of the funds, they began a careful laundering process to cover up and cash out.”
In February 2021, the US charged three North Korean hackers over a cyber-attack campaign to steal $1.3 billion in both crypto and traditional currencies.
The department accused the trio of hackers of opening backdoors into people’s computers and hacking into companies trading currencies like bitcoin, among other cyber crimes.
Speaking at the time, BBC News reports, then-assistant attorney general John Demers said: “North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world’s leading bank robbers.”