The FBI has revealed that hackers who are associated with the North Korean Government Have stolen just over $810 million worth of cryptocurrency. The cyber-attack occurred in March 2022 and was undertaken by a Pyongyang based video game company.
"Through our investigation we were able to confirm Lazarus Group and APT38, cyber actors associated with the DPRK, are responsible for the theft of US$620 million in Ethereum reported on March 29th," says the FBI in an online statement.
"DPRK" is an abbreviation for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Ethereum is the second most popular type of cryptocurrency in the world only behind Bitcoin.
According to the FBI the recent hack of a computer network was used by Axie Infinity, a video game that enables players to earn cryptocurrency.
Sky Mavis, the company that created Axie Infinity, announced in late March 2022 that unidentified hackers had stolen the equivalent of about $810 million valued at the time of the hack's discovery, on the 23rd March from a "bridge," or network that allows users to send cryptocurrency from one blockchain to another.
The US Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned Lazarus Group, a wide swath of hackers believed to work on behalf of the North Korean government.
Treasury sanctioned the specific "wallet", or cryptocurrency address, that was used to cash out on the Axie Infinity hack.
Cyberattacks have been an important source of revenue for the North Korean regime for years as its leader, Kim Jong Un, has continued to pursue nuclear weapons, according to a United Nations panel and outside cybersecurity experts.
Overall, it has been reported that Lazarus Group has stolen an estimated $2.4 billion worth of cryptocurrency in recent years, according to Chainalysis, which is a firm that tracks digital currency transactions.
"A hack of a cryptocurrency business, unlike a retailer, for example, is essentially bank robbery at the speed of the internet and funds North Korea's destabilising activity and weapons proliferation. As long as they are successful and profitable, they will not stop,” says Ari Redbord, head of legal affairs at TRM Labs, a firm that investigates financial crime.
Although many cybersecurity analysts' attention has been on Russian hacking in light of the war in Ukraine, suspected North Korean hackers have been causing plenty of chaos in recent months,
Researchers at Google last month disclosed two different alleged North Korean hacking campaigns targeting US media and IT organisations, and cryptocurrency and financial technology sectors.
Google has a policy of informing users who are targeted by state-sponsored hackers.
Shane Huntley, who leads Google's Threat Analysis Group, said that if a Google user has "any link to being involved in Bitcoin or cryptocurrency" and they get a warning about state-backed hacking from Google, it almost always ends up being North Korean activity.
"It seems to be an ongoing strategy for them to supplement and make money through this activity," says Shane Huntley.
The Commonwealth Banks Plans To Expand Crypto Services Have Been Delayed By Red Tape
The Commonwealth is still paddling through a sea of red tape which has been inflicted by financial regulators prior to launching its crypto products to all of its retail users.
Financial regulators are standing in the way of expanded crypto services on Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) mobile application. In an Australian first, the bank aims to allow all of its 6.5 million users access to cryptocurrency services.
Late last year the CBA’s crypto products began as a pilot project of the services, after which it hoped to open up to all of the users of its app. However, it now appears to be moving toward a second pilot. On Wednesday 6th April that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has tied up the launch with red tape.
ASIC objects to the launch on the basis of consumer protections in regards to the target market and product disclosures. CBA has been working with ASIC and several other regulatory bodies within the Australian government in order to launch the services.
ASIC commissioner Cathie Armour says that her commission’s recent focus on crypto despite arguments that it falls outside ASIC‘s purview. She said that although crypto assets are not necessarily financial products that the commission can regulate, it was concerned that:
“Consumers may be investing in an environment where they are not afforded the same level of protection that applies to financial products and services.”
The announcement of the CBA’s plans to launch cryptocurrency services in November last year obtain huge amounts of attention from the media as it was one of the first big four banks in Australia to do so.
Blockchain Australia CEO Steve Vallas told Cointelegraph that the move would be “extraordinarily important.”
To make the product a reality, the Commonwealth Bank commenced a partnership with offshore crypto exchange Gemini and blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis. Once fully launched, the product will include Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) and Litecoin (LTC).