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18 Sep

North Korea’s Lazarus APT stole almost $240 million in crypto assets since June

Pierluigi Paganini
September 18, 2023

The North Korea-linked APT group Lazarus has stolen more than $240 million worth of cryptocurrency since June 2023, researchers warn.

According to a report published by blockchain cyber security firm Elliptic, in the past 104 days, the North Korea-linked APT group Lazarus has stolen most of $240 million in crypto assets from multiple businesses, including Atomic Wallet ($100m), CoinsPaid ($37.3M), Alphapo ($60M), and Stake.com ($41M). 

The group is also suspected to have recently stolen $31 million from the professional global cryptocurrency exchange CoinEx.

“The elite North Korean hacking group Lazarus appears to have recently ramped up its operations, conducting a confirmed four attacks against crypto entities since June 3rd. Now, they are suspected of carrying out a fifth attack, this time targeting CoinEx on September 12.” reads the report.

Elliptic researchers discovered that some of the funds stolen from CoinEx were sent to an address used by the Lazarus APT group to launder funds stolen from Stake.com.

“As seen in the chart above, Elliptic analysis confirms that some of the funds stolen from CoinEx were sent to an address which was used by the Lazarus group to launder funds stolen from Stake.com, albeit on a different blockchain.” states Elliptic. “Following this, the funds were bridged to Ethereum, using a bridge previously used by Lazarus, and then sent back to an address known to be controlled by the CoinEx hacker.”

Lazarus APT

The analysis of recent attacks suggests that since last year, the Lazarus APT group has shifted their focus from decentralized services to centralized ones. Four of the recent five attacks hit centralized virtual asset service providers. The researchers also pointed out that centralized exchanges were the target of choice of the group prior to 2020.

The change of tactic is likely motivated by the increased level of cyber security for the DeFi platforms. The experts also highlighted that centralized exchanges are more exposed to social engineering attacks.

“Fast forward to today, and approximately $291.3 million has vanished due to private key breaches. 77.7% originates from the five major incidents dissected in this analysis. September alone saw losses upwards of $120 million. The Stake.com and CoinEx exploits account for 78% of September’s total.” concludes the report published by blockchain security firm Certik.

“Historical data, including the Ronin Bridge and CoinsPaid exploits, pinpoints the Lazarus Group’s modus operandi: spear-phishing targeting Web3 company personnel to hijack sensitive credentials. Employees in the Web3 sphere need to be acutely vigilant of unsolicited job pitches, especially those boasting overly lucrative compensation packages.”

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook and Mastodon

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Lazarus APT)



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