US DoJ charges North Korean hackers over crypto theft and attacks


US Department of Justice charged three computer programmers who apparently belong to the infamous North Korea-affiliated hacker group known as Lazarus for attempting to steal and extort over $1.3 billion in fiat and cryptocurrency from financial institutions. The charges also accused the trio of deploying “multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications” and “fraudulently market a blockchain platform.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), among other agencies, investigated the cryptocurrencies stolen by the Lazarus Group. At the same time, the Department of Justice had filed a complaint to forfeit 280 crypto-accounts last year, which were connected to the laundering of approximately $28.7 million worth of crypto. Investigators were able to keep up with the Lazarus Group, despite the fact that they tried to cover their tracks by attempting to liquidate the stolen funds via “chain hopping.” 

Federal prosecutors claimed that the accused targeted hundreds of crypto firms and stole tens of millions of dollars’ worth of crypto. This included $75 million from a Slovenian crypto company in December 2017, $24.9 million from an Indonesian company in September 2018, and $11.8 million from a financial services company in New York in August 2020.

The criminal schemes also include a cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November 2014 “in retaliation” for the film “The Interview,” which depicted a fictional assassination of the North Korean leader. 

The alleged perpetrators of the crimes, Jon Chang, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyo, who are from North Korea, could face a prison sentence between 5 and 30 years if convicted. At the same time, DoJ charged one Ghaleb Alaumary, from Ontario, Canada, for money laundering for the North Korean conspiracy. Alaumary agreed to plead guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.


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