FBI and Chainalysis recover $30 million stolen hackers from Axie Infinity

    11 Sep 2022

    With the help of blockchain analysts firm Chainalysis, FBI agents seized $30 million worth of crypto stolen by the North Korean threat group Lazarus from the token-based play-to-earn game Axie Infinity. Hackers stole over $600 million from Axie earlier this year.

    The news was announced during the AxieCon event on Sept. 8, where the hosts highlighted it as a community achievement and the result of a large-scale collaboration between multiple law enforcement authorities and private entities.

    This is the first time stolen cryptocurrency has been seized from a North Korean hacking group, and it won’t be the last, according to Chainalysis, which had active involvement in the retrieval.

    The company reports, “Chainalysis Crypto Incident Response team played an active role in these seizures, utilizing advanced tracing techniques to follow stolen funds to cash out points and liaising with law enforcement and industry players to quickly freeze funds.”

    Erin Plante, senior director of investigations at Chainalysis, said law enforcement officials were able to recover the funds, which were stolen by Lazarus Group, a North Korean hacking entity tied to multiple crypto thefts over recent years.

    “With the help of law enforcement and leading organizations in the cryptocurrency industry, more than $30 million worth of cryptocurrency stolen by North Korean-linked hackers has been seized. This marks the first time ever that cryptocurrency stolen by a North Korean hacking group has been seized, and we’re confident it won’t be the last,” Plante said in a blog post.

    Hackers stole over $600 million from Axie this spring, laundering many of the proceeds through privacy mixer Tornado Cash. The U.S. Treasury Department later sanctioned Tornado Cash for facilitating money laundering.

    As expected, the seized money will gradually move into Axie Infinity’s treasury and back to the players’ community, but the game’s publishers explained this process might take several years.

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