US Treasury Sanctions Three Individuals for Supporting DPRK’s Lazarus Group
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US Treasury Sanctions Three Individuals for Supporting DPRK’s Lazarus Group

OFAC has again expanded its fight against North Korean hackers by sanctioning three individuals that had helped them transfer and launder proceeds from cyber attacks.
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On Monday, April 24th, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it has placed sanctions on three individuals for supporting the North Korean Lazarus Group. The Lazarus Group is a notorious hacking organization considered to be controlled by DPRK’s Reconnaissance General Bureau. It has been involved in numerous cyber attacks and has become notorious in the crypto community for orchestrating some of the biggest digital assets hacks to date.

OFAC Sanctions Lazarus Group Supporters

In a Monday press release, the US Treasury announced it had sanctioned three individuals for supporting the activities of the North Korean Lazarus Group. The three persons, Wu Huihui, Cheng Hung Man, and Sim Hyon Sop, are accused of either directly supporting the hacker organization, or supporting one another in related illicit activities. 

They have, among other allegations, helped the Lazarus Group convert stolen cryptocurrency in order to support DPRK’s weapons program, including the development of WMDs. In the press release, the Treasury also highlighted North Korea’s long-standing efforts to evade sanctions and infiltrate the global financial markets using digital assets.

The DPRK’s use of illicit facilitation networks to access the international financial system and generate revenue using virtual currency for the regime’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction(WMD) and ballistic missile programs directly threatens international security. The United States and our partners are committed to safeguarding the international financial system and preventing its use in the DPRK’s destabilizing activities, especially in light of the DPRK’s three launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) this year alone.

Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence

OFAC has been actively working on curtailing the Lazarus Group for years and has already issued several sanctions against individuals and organizations suspected of helping the hackers. Perhaps the most controversial action so far was the blacklisting of Tornado Cash, a cryptocurrency mixer, that some believe is legally unsanctionable.

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The Fight to Stop the Lazarus Group

Over the previous years, North Kora has been getting increasingly involved with digital asset theft. In 2021, its agents reportedly stole more than $400 million worth of cryptocurrencies. According to a UN report from early April, the number more than doubled with more than $1 billion stolen throughout 2022

Much of the hacking activity has been conducted by the notorious Lazarus Group which the US believes to be controlled by DPRK’s main intelligence organization—the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The hacker group has been connected with various high-profile cyber attacks including the Ronin hack and is even believed to have conducted the largest-ever hack in which it drained more than $600 million worth of digital assets.

As a result, OFAC has been continuously working to make the hackers’ work more difficult by sanctioning numerous individuals and organizations believed to be supporters of the Lazarus Group. Furthermore, the fight against the cybercriminals has been an international one with South Korean police foiling a major attack that sought to compromise dozens of the country’s computers as recently as mid-April.

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Do you think OFAC will ever be able to entirely stop Lazarus Group’s activities? Let us know in the comments below.