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  • Philip Osadebay - Tech Journalist

Lazarus Group in North Korea uses cryptocurrency to launder $900 million

In the world of cryptocurrencies, illicit activities continue to flourish with large sums of money at stake. A recent report from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic reveals that up to $7 billion in cryptocurrency has been laundered through cross-chain crime, and at the heat of this crypto crime the notorious Lazarus Group, a North Korea-linked hacking crew is been connected to the theft of $900 million between July 2022 and July this year.

As traditional methods of laundering crypto face scrutiny and seizure risks, criminals are turning to more sophisticated tactics. They make use of a tactic called "cross-chain crime". It is a method which involves the conversion of crypto assets from one token or blockchain to another, all in a means to cover the origins of the funds.

Elliptic's data reveals that the Lazarus Group's use of cross-chain bridges played a major role in 111% increase in funds moved through such services. This North Korean hacking group has stolen an estimated $240 million in cryptocurrency since June 2023. Their targets have included Atomic Wallet ($100 million), CoinsPaid ($37.3 million), Alphapo ($60 million), ($41 million), and CoinEx ($31 million).

What makes the Lazarus Group stand out is not just their cryptocurrency heists but their multiple approach to cybercrime. ESET, a cybersecurity firm, has noted that the North Korean hacking group engage in cyber espionage, cyber sabotage, and the pursuit of financial gain.

By constantly moving assets between blockchains, these criminals purposely do such to confuse investigators on their trail.

This revelation comes at a time when South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) has been sounding the alarm about North Korea's cyber activities, particularly their attacks on the shipbuilding sector. With tactics ranging from infiltrating IT maintenance companies to distributing phishing emails, the Lazarus Group continues to be a formidable threat in the world of cybercrime.


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