After tying North Korean hackers to the massive $625 million Axie Infinity crypto swindle, the United States government warns of NoKor cyber attacks.
The United States government warns of North Korean crypto attacks following the discovery of the identity of the group that exploited Axie Infinity’s Ronin bridge and hacked $625 million. The government observed NoKor cyber actors targeting several crypto and blockchain companies, including exchange platforms, DeFi protocols, and play-to-earn (P2E) games.
Several U.S. government organizations issued a joint warning on Monday addressing the threat presented by the tactics used by the Lazarus Group. This North Korean state-sponsored group was behind the $625 million hacking. According to the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the U.S. Treasury Department, the Lazarus Group also goes by the following names: APT38, BlueNoroff, and Stardust Chollima.
Basis of Warning
In a statement, the FBI said hacking outfits Lazarus and APT38, both linked to North Korea, were behind the theft. It appears the funds are being used to generate revenue for Kim Jong Un’s regime.
According to the U.S. government, it had observed the movements of these NoKor cyber actors. Their actions follow a pattern clearly showing they are targeting a wide range of crypto and blockchain companies. These include “cryptocurrency exchanges, decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols, play-to-earn cryptocurrency video games, cryptocurrency trading companies, venture capital funds investing in cryptocurrency, and individual holders of large amounts of cryptocurrency or valuable non-fungible tokens (NFTs).”
Along with the warning, the organizations advised companies and individuals with crypto holdings and anything similar to guard against the group’s social engineering attempts to hack into these. According to them, holders of digital assets must patch all systems, prioritize patching known and exploited vulnerabilities, train users to identify and report phishing attempts, and use multifactor authentication.
Historic Hack Presents National Security Threat
On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department included an Ethereum wallet address on its sanction list after discovering that the wallet facilitated several transfers amounting to over $86 million of the stolen funds. It prompted a blockchain expert to declare that Axie Infinity’s historic hack signals the rise of a new type of national security threat.
“If there was ever a doubt that hacks were not tied to national security, that’s been resolved,” said Ari Redbord, head of legal and government affairs at blockchain research firm TRM. According to Redbord, it was concerning how a nation with an extremely small economy and limited infrastructure as North Korea can go head-to-head with global superpowers like the U.S. and China when it comes to cyber-warfare.
“Over the last few years, many hacks have been perpetrated by North Korea,” Redbord said. “But the magnitude of this one shows things have moved from small exploits to true national security concerns. It’s staggering—bank robbery at the speed of the internet.”
By using the Lazarus group, NoKor is showing that not even its isolated status and lack of modern amenities can hold it back from yielding a cyber attack on the world stage. They have also chosen an excellent target, given the volume of funds and transactions being moved daily in the crypto industry. What’s more, most crypto-related businesses aren’t fully mature and may yet be tightening and developing their security protocols.
The authorities and crypto-related businesses must put forth their best efforts to ensure that a cyber theft of this scale doesn’t get duplicated.
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