In a record seizure by the country, Norway has confiscated $5.85 million in cryptocurrencies from a group of North Korean hackers. The funds were stolen from the Ronin network last March as part of $540 million worth of cryptocurrencies lost in a heist.
A report released by the police in Norway on Thursday confirmed the seizure by Okokrim, the government agency in charge of the country’s national economic crime unit. It stated that an operation coordinated by the agency seized 60 million Norwegian crowns ($5.84 million) worth of digital currencies. This is the largest seizure in the country so far.
Stolen from Ronin Network
Authorities clarified that the fund was part of crypto assets stolen from the Ronin Network in March 2022. Ronin, the network on which the popular blockchain game Axie Infinity was built, lost $540 million in the attack. The hack, which was one of the biggest, was linked to the North Korean hacker group Lazarus Group.
Funding for missile and nuclear programs
Issuing a statement on the matter, the senior public prosecutor in Norway, Marianne Bender, said,
This is money that can be used to finance the North Korean regime and their nuclear weapons program.
Her statement is not the first one that has alluded to North Korea financing its nuclear program using illicit funds. The United Nations earlier published that cyberattacks are being used by Pyongyang for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
All the allegations have been denied by the North Korean government.
The blockchain analysis platform Chainalysis said that it is positive that North Korean attackers are behind most of the attacks on cryptocurrency platforms. It added that the North Korean hacker groups are behind the attack on the crypto exchange, Kucoin. The hack on the Japanese platform, Liquid, was also traced to the hacker group in the country.
The threat of North Korean hacker groups
Several US agencies have raised concerns about the threat the hacker group poses to crypto platforms globally. It is estimated that $3 billion was lost to such attacks from January to October of last year.
The blockchain-based game, Axie Infinity, was built by Sky Mavis, a Vietnamese company. The founder, Alexander Larsen, is a Norwegian businessman. He expressed gratitude to Binance for the exchange’s assistance in tracking the seized funds.
How Binance helped
In response, a spokesperson for Binance said,
“When we learn of bad actors on our platform, we intervene and take appropriate action, including freezing funds and working with law enforcement to return funds to their rightful owner.”
Seizure of illicit cryptocurrencies is increasingly common as blockchain analysis tools become more sophisticated. The US authorities are leading as the country that has seized the most volume of cryptocurrencies since the days of Silk Road, a dark net marketplace.