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Record-Breaking Crypto Seizure

by Hans Lipper

Norway’s National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Økokrim) recently confiscated a record-high amount of digital currencies worth almost $6 million. This was part of the massive exploit on Sky Mavis, a technology company that develops the popular blockchain-based game Axie Infinity, carried out by North Korean hackers. Økokrim worked with international law enforcement partners, including the FBI, to track the stolen proceeds and prevent the wrongdoers from money laundering.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) warned last year that North Korea’s infamous hacking group – the Lazarus – is formed by “a masterful army of cybercriminals and foreign affiliates”, using “sophisticated” techniques to drain assets from blockchain organizations. This was evidenced by the $588 million worth of ETH and $25.5 million in USDC stolen from Ronin Bridge last spring, as well as the $100 million exploit on Harmony’s Horizon Bridge. According to Chainalysis, North Korean hackers stole the record $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in 2022, siphoning 65% of those funds from DeFi protocols.

The main goal of the hackers was to support the totalitarian regime in North Korea and fuel its nuclear weapon programs. First State Attorney Marianne Bender praised the efforts of Økokrim, saying this case “shows that we also have a great capacity to follow the money on the blockchain, even if the criminals use advanced methods”. It is clear that North Korea is a global leader on the crypto crime scene, and it is essential that international law enforcement partners continue to work together to track and seize stolen funds.

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