The rate of crimes related to cryptocurrencies has dropped more than 50% in 2020 due to tightened regulatory norms, but ransomware attacks don’t seem to stop. One of the most notorious groups known for these attacks is the Lazarus Group. This North-Korean hacking group has amassed billions of dollars from their victims.
As of late, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged three computer programmers who apparently belong to this infamous group which is also affiliated by the nation’s government. The alleged reportedly attempted to steal and extort over $1.3 billion in fiat and cryptocurrency from financial institutions. In addition, the DOJ also accuses the trio of deploying “multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications” and “fraudulently market a blockchain platform.”
The investigation into the Lazarus Group was carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), among other agencies. The DOJ had previously filed a complaint to forfeit 280 crypto-accounts in 2020, which helped launder approximately $28.7 million worth of crypto.
However, in collaboration with crypto exchanges, investigators were able to track the illicit funds even though the group tried covering their tracks.
Per Federal prosecutors, the accused have targeted several hundred cryptocurrency firms and managed to steal millions of dollars’ worth of crypto. These thefts include $75 million from a Slovenian crypto company in December 2017, $24.9 million from an Indonesian company in September 2018, and $11.8 million from a financial services company in New York in August 2020.
The group was responsible for a major cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November 2014 “in retaliation” for the film “The Interview,” which depicted a fictional assassination of the North Korean leader. A pretty solid hint that it is in fact backed by the government.
The perpetrators Jon Chang, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyo, residents of North Korea, could face a prison sentence between 5 and 30 years if proven guilty. Meanwhile, DoJ charged one Ghaleb Alaumary, a resident of Ontario, Canada, for money laundering for the North Korean conspiracy. Alaumary agreed to plead guilty to the charge for which he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.