North Korean hackers were responsible for a $620 million cryptocurrency heist last month targeting players of the popular Axie Infinity game, US authorities said Thursday.
The hack was one of the biggest to hit the crypto world, raising big questions about security in an industry that only recently broke into the mainstream thanks to celebrity promotions and promises of untold wealth.
Last month’s theft from the makers of Axie Infinity, a game where players can earn crypto by playing or trading their avatars, came just weeks after thieves made off with about $320 million in a similar attack.
“Through our investigation, we were able to confirm that Lazarus Group and APT38, cyber actors affiliated with (North Korea), are responsible for the theft,” the FBI said in a statement.
Lazarus Group rose to prominence in 2014 when it was accused of hacking into Sony Pictures Entertainment in revenge for “The Interview,” a satirical film that mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korea’s cyber program dates back to at least the mid-1990s, but has since grown into a 6,000-strong cyber warfare unit known as Bureau 121, operating out of several countries including Belarus, China, India, Malaysia and Russia. a 2020 US military report.
North Korean hackers stole about $400 million worth of cryptocurrency through cyber-attacks on digital currency outlets last year, blockchain data platform Chainalysis said in January.
In the case of the Axie Infinity heist, attackers exploited the weaknesses in the scheme of the Vietnam-based company behind the game, Sky Mavis.
The company had to solve a problem: the ethereum blockchain, where transactions in the ether cryptocurrency are logged, is relatively slow and expensive to use.
To enable Axie Infinity players to buy and sell quickly, the company created an in-game currency and side-chain with a bridge to the main ethereum blockchain.
The result was faster and cheaper, but ultimately less safe.
The attack on the blockchain yielded 173,600 ether and $25.5 million in stablecoin, a digital asset pegged to the US dollar.
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