The U.S State Department has announced a reward of up to $5 million to anyone with information on North Korean Cyber operations following the hack of Ronin Network.
The reward is offered by the department’s Justice program and will reward those with information on North Korean activities aimed at undermining cybersecurity for the benefit of North Korea’s capital city, Pyongyang. This includes financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.
Also covered by the reward is information on “North Korean digital operations that help keep the regime afloat and fund its weapons programs” as well as those who on behalf of North Korea “knowingly engages in significant activities undermining cybersecurity through the use of computer networks or systems against foreign persons, governments, or other entities”
The Ronin hack
Ronin Network was hacked on 23 March 2022 when the platform was emptied of funds. A total of $400 million of funds belonging to customers playing the game Axie Infinity was stolen in the hack which the game had to pay back. The FBI blamed the hack on the North Korean state-backed hacking group Lazarus which is notorious for carrying out hacks on behalf of the country.
“Through our investigation we were able to confirm Lazarus Group and APT38, cyber actors associated with the DPRK, are responsible for the theft of $620 million in Ethereum reported on March 29th,” an official statement released by the department said.
As a result, the Treasury Department has also imposed sanctions on Lazarus for its long standing reputation of using heists to raise funds for PyonGyang. Other hacks the group is suspected of carrying out in the past include the 2014 hack on Sony Pictures and the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attacks.
There is more to Crypto-related hacks
Before now, hacks on crypto-related networks like Ronin were only seen as activities of people just trying to steal crypto. This reward offer reveals that there is more to crypto hacks than meets the eye.
Several hacks, mostly on cryptocurrency exchanges have been traced to Korean hackers who have raised millions of dollars to support the country’s weapons program. This necessitates tightening the security of crypto exchanges to prevent such hacks or crypto will be blamed for the illegal weapons in the end.