A recent report by blockchain analytics firm Elliptic reveals that cybercriminals have illicitly laundered approximately $7 billion in cryptocurrency through cross-chain crime, with the North Korea-linked Lazarus Group responsible for roughly $900 million of these proceeds between July 2022 and July 2023.
Cross-chain crime involves rapidly converting stolen crypto assets from one blockchain or token to another, making it challenging to trace the origin of these funds and serving as a lucrative method for money laundering in crypto theft cases. The Lazarus Group’s utilization of cross-chain bridges contributed significantly to a 111% increase in the proportion of funds sent through such services.
The Lazarus Group has been actively targeting cryptocurrency assets and is estimated to have stolen nearly $240 million in cryptocurrency since June 2023. Their attacks have included targeting platforms like Atomic Wallet, CoinsPaid, Alphapo, Stake.com, and CoinEx. Known for its diverse and sophisticated cyber campaigns, the Lazarus Group engages in cyber espionage, cyber sabotage, and the pursuit of financial gain, making it a formidable threat actor in the cyber landscape. Additionally, the group has been linked to using the Avalanche Bridge to deposit over 9,500 bitcoin while employing cross-chain solutions to move the stolen assets.
As the report highlights the increasing prevalence of cross-chain crime and the adoption of this method for money laundering, it underscores the challenges faced by law enforcement and regulatory authorities in combating cryptocurrency-related cybercrimes. The disclosure also coincides with warnings from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) regarding North Korea’s cyberattacks targeting its shipbuilding sector since the beginning of the year, highlighting the persistent threat posed by state-sponsored hacking groups like Lazarus.