The Trump administration sanctioned North Korea’s Lazarus Group, which raked in $571 million from Bitcoin thefts. | Source: Shutterstock
North Korea’s notorious state-sponsored hacker team Lazarus Group – the one responsible for stealing more than $500 million from Bitcoin exchanges around the world – has finally been sanctioned by the Trump administration. This is over a decade since the outfit was created by the rogue state.
In a press release, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the U.S. Treasury announced sanctions against Lazarus Group, as well as two other smaller outfits – Andariel and Bluenoroff – all connected to the major intelligence organization of North Korea.
Bitcoin thefts and ransoms used to fund nukes
According to the U.S. Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, North Korea has been using the cryptocurrency funds stolen by the hacking groups to finance its weapons development:
“Treasury is taking action against North Korean hacking groups that have been perpetrating cyber attacks to support illicit weapon and missile programs.”
A UN report released last month corroborates OFAC’s claims.
Among the cyberattacks that Lazarus Group has been involved in include the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware attack. Per CBS, the average ransom associated with the cyberattack was Bitcoin worth approximately $300. By May 2017, combined losses from at least 150 countries were estimated to have reached $4 billion.
Other activities that the three hacking groups are alleged to have engaged in include stealing from cryptocurrency exchanges. Again, proceeds from these crimes went to financing the rogue state’s weapons programs:
“North Korea’s cyber operations also target Virtual Asset Providers and cryptocurrency exchanges to possibly assist in obfuscating revenue streams and cyber-enabled thefts that also potentially fund North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile programs.”