The Federal Bureau of Investigation connected North Korean hackers to a theft of bitcoin worth more than $600 million from a service associated with the popular crypto play-to-earn game Axie Infinity on Thursday.
Although no one has publicly assigned blame for the intrusion, the US Treasury recognized a digital currency address used by the hackers as being controlled by a North Korean hacking outfit called “Lazarus” on Thursday.
The Treasury Department announced the addition of a new Ethereum wallet address to its list of sanctioned individuals associated with the Lazarus Group. This is the same wallet address that Sky Mavis, founder of Axie Infinity, identified as the Ronin attacker in late March.
Elliptic and Chainalysis, both blockchain analytics organizations, have confirmed that the US Treasury’s wallet address is identical to the one used in the Ronin hack.
North Korean Hacker Identified
“Through our investigation, we were able to identify that Lazarus Group and APT38, two cyber actors linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, are responsible for the theft of $620 million in Ethereum reported on March 29,” the FBI said in a news statement.
According to a Ronin statement, the network aims to deliver a “complete post mortem” detailing security measures implemented and next steps by the end of the month.
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One Of The Biggest Hacks
The March hack of Blockchain project Ronin was one of the largest in the crypto world’s history, raising serious concerns about security in a sector that has only lately gained popular attention because of celebrity endorsements and prospects of unlimited fortune.
Lazarus gained notoriety in 2014 when it was accused of hacking Sony Pictures Entertainment in retaliation for the satirical film “The Interview,” which insulted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Additionally, it has been accused of being involved in the “WannaCry” ransomware attacks and compromising foreign banks and consumer accounts.
BTC total market cap at $755.14 billion on the daily chart | Source: TradingView.com
NoKor Ramping Up Cybercrime Activities
According to a Treasury Department spokesperson:
“The United States is aware that the DPRK has increasingly relied on illegal activities – including cybercrime – to fund its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in order to defy stringent United States and United Nations sanctions.”
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Axie Infinity’s Popularity In SE Asia
Axie Infinity has gained prominence in Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines as part of the “play to earn” trend, which allows users to earn cryptocurrencies by playing games.
Dedicated players are already making thousands of dollars every month playing Axie, and the site has developed rapidly, reaching nearly 2 million active users in August.
Around 40% of today’s Axie players are located in the Philippines.
Sky Mavis has committed to reimbursing the stolen payments and just recently raised $150 million from a consortium of investors led by cryptocurrency platform Binance.
Featured image from Ars Technica, chart from TradingView.com