A group of hackers with ties to North Korea is behind the $620 million crypto theft that followed the Axie Infinity video game hack in late March.
“Our investigation confirms that Lazarus Group and APT38, online groups with ties to North Korea, were responsible for the $620 million theft,” the FBI said in a statement.
The Axie Infinity heist is one of the largest known online thefts ever. The hackers targeted software that makes it possible to exchange cryptocurrencies in the game for other digital coins. For example, 173,600 units of the cryptocurrency Ethereum were stolen, according to Ronin, the network used for Axie Infinity.
Axie Infinity was created in 2018 by Sky Mavis, a Vietnam firm. The game became very popular in developing countries. About 35 percent of the traffic and the majority of the 2.5 million daily active players are in the Philippines.
According to a 2020 report by the US military, Bureau 121, the North Korean cyber unit has about 6,000 members operating from other countries, such as Russia, Belarus, China, India and Malaysia.
Lazarus Group gained notoriety when the hacker collective was accused in 2014 of hacking into movie studio Sony Pictures Entertainment. The hacking allegedly happened in revenge for a satirical film about North Korea.
The US imposed sanctions on the group in 2019. However, according to the data analytics platform Chainalysis, hackers with ties to North Korea stole about $400 million worth of crypto coins last year.