Japan-based Crypto Businesses Warned of Possible Cyberattack Threat

Crypto companies in Japan asked to defend against hacks from North Korea’s Lazarus group


Tokyo, Japan; Source: Shutterstock


key takeaways

  • Lazarus is most likely targeting Japanese crypto operators through cyberattacks, authorities say
  • Crypto businesses urged to caution against phishing attacks and social engineering

North Korean hacking group Lazarus plotting phishing and social engineering attacks against crypto businesses, authorities in Japan have warned.

Local police, Japan’s financial regulator and the National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy warned local crypto businesses in a recent advisory statement about further hacking attempts. They also laid out preventive measures to monitor breaches.

Since Lazarus is state-sponsored, it is believed proceeds from the hacks may go toward North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The group has also been associated with using crypto mixer Tornado Cash, recently sanctioned by the US Treasury, to conceal the origin of stolen funds.

The authorities didn’t mention which crypto businesses were targeted by Lazarus, but warned that security measures such as improved private key management are warranted.

They asked both individuals and companies to implement countermeasures such as ensuring the origin of downloaded files is a trusted source, interfaces to web applications are legitimate and private keys are stored offline, such as on a hardware wallet.

Lazarus is believed to have stolen more than $1.75 billion worth of cryptoassets since its formation in 2009, Chainalysis found last year. The group has been behind several crypto exchange hacks, including the theft of $49 million worth of crypto from Upbit in 2019.

After several companies had their internal systems hacked and crypto stolen, police reportedly launched an investigation within a special investigation unit. They eventually found Lazarus to be the culprit.

A local report by Japan News states it isn’t usual to name a suspected attacker before a more substantial action like an arrest, but that publicly naming the group is also viewed as an effective move to preempt attacks, as it could prompt people to take action and remain vigilant.

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