FBI Blames North Korean Hackers For Crypto Theft

According to the FBI, hackers linked to North Korea are behind one of the largest ever digital thefts. They had stolen $620 million in an online game.

A theft of cryptocurrencies worth hundreds of millions of euros last month is said to be due to North Korean hackers, according to US authorities. The US Federal Police FBI said that two hacking groups "connected" to North Korea named Lazarus Group and APT38 were responsible for the digital theft in the online game Axie Infinity.

According to this, they stole cryptocurrencies worth around 620 million dollars (570 million euros) during the attack around two weeks ago. It was one of the largest digital heists ever. 

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The Lazarus Group rose to prominence in 2014 when they were accused of hacking film production company Sony Pictures Entertainment in revenge for the satirical film The Interview. The film satirizes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea employs 6,000 hackers in multiple countries

According to a 2020 US military report, the North Korean hacking program dates back at least to the mid-1990s. North Korea now employs around 6,000 hackers who are said to be organized in a unit called Bureau 121.

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They therefore operate from several countries – including Belarus, China, India, Malaysia and Russia. North Korean hackers are said to have stolen around $400 million worth of cryptocurrencies through cyberattacks last year, data platform Chainalysis reported in January.

In the game Axie Infinity, players participate in battles with colorful blob-like avatars. These avatars are Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT), a type of unique digital artwork that can be sold, rented, and farmed. Users can exchange in-game rewards for cryptocurrencies or cash. According to the manufacturer, the game had 2.5 million daily active users before the attack.

The attackers targeted so-called bridge software that could be used to exchange crypto money in the game for other digital currencies. Among other things, 173,600 units of the cryptocurrency Ethereum were stolen, according to the operators of the hacked Ronin Bridge. The attackers managed to withdraw the digital currencies with hacked crypto keys. Bridges have been considered a potential risk in the industry for some time, as little is known about their security measures.

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