The Norwegian police agency Økokrim has announced a major victory against the notorious North Korea-backed hacking group Lazarus. In March 2022, the group hacked the Axie Infinity Ronin Bridge and stole around $5.84 million worth of cryptocurrency.
Ten months after the U.S. Treasury Department implicated the group in the theft, the Norwegian police agency has announced the seizure of the stolen funds.
The agency has stated that this case shows its ability to follow the money on the blockchain, even if the criminals use advanced methods. The police worked with international law enforcement partners to follow and piece together the money trail, making it more difficult for criminal actors to carry out money laundering activities.
They emphasized that the seized funds could support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and that tracking the cryptocurrency was crucial to prevent the money from being withdrawn in physical assets.
Recent developments in cryptocurrency theft
The seizure of funds comes as Binance and Huobi froze accounts containing approximately $1.4 million in digital currency that originated from the June 2022 hack of Harmony’s Horizon Bridge.
The attack was also attributed to the Lazarus Group, which used Tornado Cash to launder some of the stolen funds. Furthermore, blockchain analytics firm Elliptic revealed that the group may have resurrected Blender as Sinbad, laundering nearly $100 million in Bitcoin from hacks attributed to the group.
Cybercrime and its impact
Despite law enforcement actions, the Lazarus Group continues to evolve with new behaviors. Healthcare entities have recently become the target of a new wave of ransomware attacks orchestrated by the group to generate illicit revenue for the sanctions-hit nation. Profits made from these financially motivated attacks are used to fund other cyber activities that include spying on defense sector and defense industrial base organizations in South Korea and the U.S.
It is crucial to track the money trail and stop criminal actors from carrying out money laundering activities. We must stay vigilant in combating cybercrime and support law enforcement agencies in their efforts to do so. The Norwegian police’s successful seizure of the stolen cryptocurrency is a major victory against the Lazarus Group and sends a clear message to other cybercriminals that they will not go unpunished.