The Norwegian police seized nearly 60 million krone ($5.9 million) in cryptocurrencies.
The assets were previously stolen by the notorious North Korean hacking collective – the Lazarus Group – which breached the security of the blockchain-based game Axie Infinity.
The Record Seizure
Norway’s National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Økokrim) confiscated almost $6 million worth of digital currencies, a record-high crypto seizure in the Scandinavian country.
The agency noted that the funds are 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 joined forces with international law enforcement partners, including the FBI, to track the stolen proceeds and prevent the wrongdoers from money laundering.
“We work with FBI specialists on tracking cryptocurrency. Such cooperation between countries means that we as a society stand stronger in the fight against digital, profit-motivated crime,” said First State Attorney Marianne Bender.
She further claimed that the hackers’ main goal was to support the totalitarian regime in North Korea and fuel its nuclear weapon programs.
“It has therefore been important to track the cryptocurrency and try to stop the money when they try to withdraw it in physical values,” she added.
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.”
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.” It also uses “sophisticated” techniques to drain assets from blockchain organizations.
North Korea: a Global Leader on the Crypto Crime Scene
One of the biggest hacks in crypto’s history happened last spring when criminals stole more than $588 million worth of ETH and $25.5 million in USDC from Ronin Bridge (an Ethereum sidechain built for Axie Infinity). After conducting an investigation, the FBI determined that the Lazarus group stood behind the crime.
The blockchain analytics company – Elliptic Enterprises – revealed several months later that the hacking collective was responsible for another attack: the $100 million exploit on Harmony’s Horizon Bridge.
Chainalysis also explored the matter, estimating that North Korean hackers stole the record $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in 2022, siphoning 65% of those funds from DeFi protocols.