Two Chinese nationals have been charged in the United States for allegedly harboring more than $100 million in stolen crypto funds for the North Korea-based hacking group Lazarus.
Lazarus Is At the Front and Center
North Korea has a long, complicated, and downright ugly history with digital assets. The country, known for its dictatorial regime which has involved cyber warfare against its own people and those of other nations, has been on a roll of stealing digital assets from its neighbor to the south, the U.S. and many other regions across the globe.
Many times, these digital funds are put towards growing its nuclear program, which has been at the center of controversy for more than 60 years.
One of the region’s biggest threats is the hacking organization known as Lazarus. It is considered one of the largest and most dangerous cyberterrorist groups in the world and has stolen more than half-a-billion in crypto assets for illicit purposes.
But now, it looks like the organization has roped in individuals from other areas to do its dirty work. The nationals in question are from China and were charged with taking part in a 2018 cyberattack that saw the money stolen from U.S. sources. They are accused of keeping the money secure and forwarding it to fund a nuclear program and weapons development for North Korea.
This is the United States’ largest attempt, thus far, to put an end to North Korea’s crypto schemes. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin explained in a statement:
The North Korean regime has continued its widespread campaign of extensive cyberattacks on financial institutions to steal funds. The United States will continue to protect the global financial system by holding accountable those who help North Korea engage in cybercrime.
In other words, America isn’t playing around, anymore. Those who assist North Korea in getting its fingers on digital funds are in for some serious punishments, and thus should avoid contact with the nuclear state altogether.
This is the same stance the country took with Ethereum’s Virgil Griffith, who is in custody for potentially giving a lecture to North Korean nationals about how crypto can be used to avoid sanctions implemented by American statesmen. While some – like Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin – side with Griffith and claim he hasn’t done anything wrong, American lawmakers think differently.
Don’t Go Helping North Korea
Upon his arrest, U.S. attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated:
As alleged, Virgil Griffith provided highly technical information to North Korea knowing that this information could be used to help North Korea launder money and evade sanctions. In allegedly doing so, Griffith jeopardized the sanctions that both Congress and the President have enacted to place maximum pressure on North Korea’s dangerous regime.
In the past, Lazarus has reportedly used programs like Telegram to steal crypto from users.