The US Treasury Department is stepping up its efforts to combat cybercrime, specifically targeting three North Koreans allegedly involved in supporting the notorious Lazarus Group, known for its high-profile cyberattacks and cryptocurrency-related thefts. On Monday, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions against three individuals allegedly linked to North Korea’s infamous Lazarus Group.

Targeted Treasury Sanctions

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control revealed Monday that it has imposed sanctions on three people believed to have connections to North Korea’s notorious Lazarus Group.

Wu Huihui, who resides in China, is accused of “facilitating the conversion of virtual currency stolen by [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] actors working with the Lazarus Group to fiat currency”.

Hong Kong-based Cheng Hung Man is suspected of collaborating with Wu to use “front companies to allow DPRK actors to circumvent illicit financing requirements at financial institutions and gain access to the US financial system.” USA.”

Sim Hyon Sop, located in Dandong, China, is an employee of Korea Kwangson Banking Corp. (KKBC), which was sanctioned in 2009 for its connections to North Korea. According to the allegations, Sim “coordinated millions of dollars in financial transfers for the DPRK.”

Brian Nelson, the Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, referred to North Korea in a statement, saying:

“The DPRK continues to exploit virtual currency and extensive illicit facilitation networks to access the international financial system and generate revenue for the regime.”

The Lazarus Group connection to Crypto

The Lazarus Group, which is suspected of being backed by the North Korean government, has been involved in numerous cyberattacks over the years, most recently targeting the crypto space. OFAC previously sanctioned two Chinese nationals, Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong, for their alleged involvement in cryptocurrency laundering connected to a cryptocurrency exchange in 2018. While OFAC did not disclose the name of the exchange, it did mention that it was suspected that the Lazarus Group was connected to the attack.

The Lazarus Group has been associated with numerous hacks over the years, including the high-profile 2022 Ronin Network attack, which is widely considered the largest crypto heist in history. The hackers managed to steal a staggering $625 million during the attack, and the FBI has since traced the crime back to the Lazarus Group.

In addition to these incidents, last year the group was suspected of targeting several Japanese crypto companies. OFAC data indicates that cyber actors with ties to North Korea managed to steal an estimated $1.7 billion worth of cryptocurrency in 2022 alone, demonstrating the group’s continued prominence and threat to the industry.

The Treasury Department suspects that the Lazarus Group has connections to the General Reconnaissance Office, which is North Korea’s intelligence agency, and is involved in the arms trade for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It appears that the office uses illicitly obtained cryptocurrency to finance nuclear and ballistic military programs in North Korea.

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