North Korea linked to $615 million crypto heist, US says – Reuters News in France and abroad

North Korean state-backed hacking collective Lazarus Group is linked to a massive cryptocurrency hack that led to the theft of $615 million in digital assets, according to US officials.

On Thursday, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announcement new sanctions against an ethereum wallet belonging to Lazarus.

According to crypto researchers, the identified wallet contains funds linked to an attack on the Ronin network, which supports the popular blockchain game Axie Infinity. Over $600 million in ether and USDC tokens were stolen in the attack.

Hackers operate what is known as a blockchain “bridge”, which allows users to transfer their digital assets from one crypto network to another. Bridges are an increasingly popular tool in the growing world of “decentralized finance,” or DeFi.

Recently announced sanctions prohibit U.S. individuals and entities from transacting with the identified ethereum account to ensure hackers cannot “cash out” funds they may be holding with U.S. crypto exchanges, the company said. Elliptic blockchain analysis in a blog post.

Chainalysis, another crypto research group, said the Lazarus attribution highlights the importance of “how DPRK-affiliated threat actors leverage crypto and better security for DeFi protocols.”

Lazarus, which is believed to be operated by the North Korean state, has been linked to several major cyberattacks over the years, including a Sony Pictures hack in 2014 and the WannaCry ransomware attacks in 2017.

North Korea has tried to use crypto as a way to evade US sanctions on numerous occasions, cybersecurity experts say, raising concerns about the possible use of digital assets to evade Russian sanctions in the middle of the war in Ukraine.

Earlier this week, Virgil Griffith, a 39-year-old American crypto expert, was sentenced to five years in prison for helping North Korea use virtual currencies to evade sanctions.

Proponents of cryptocurrencies say they are an ineffective tool for laundering ill-gotten gains, since the activity is recorded on a public ledger known as the blockchain.

However, criminals have a number of techniques to launder crypto, according to Elliptic. The company said internal analysis suggests Ronin attacks “succeeded in laundering 18% of their stolen funds” on Thursday.

The hackers first traded stolen USDC tokens for ether through unregulated decentralized exchanges to prevent them from being seized, but then laundered nearly $17 million of the proceeds through centralized exchanges like FTX and Huobi.

They then used what is called a “mixer,” a service that aims to hide the funds trail by mixing potentially identifiable crypto transaction streams with others. More than $80 million was sent through this mixing service, called Tornado Cash, according to Elliptic.

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North Korea linked to $615 million crypto heist, US says – Reuters News in France and abroad

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