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Lazarus Group and Garantex: A Disturbing Alliance in the Global Crypto Heist

Multinational Cybercriminal Syndicate Exploits Russian Exchange to Launder $35 Million Stolen from Atomic Wallet

Wed, 14 Jun 2023, 14:57 pm UTC

From the grimy underbelly of cybercrime emerges a new tale intertwined with a multinational heist, encrypted currencies, and shadowy online exchanges. Unsettling reports suggest that the $35 million pilfered from Atomic Wallet, one of the largest digital thefts in recent times, has started its surreptitious journey once again.

This plot sees the notorious Lazarus Group, a hacking syndicate hailing from North Korea, at its epicenter. Elliptic, a vanguard in blockchain security, alleges that this shadowy crew is utilizing the Russian crypto exchange Garantex to launder their ill-gotten wealth.

Garantex, no stranger to controversy, caught the attention of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last year, resulting in sanctions being imposed on the exchange. Initially established in Estonia in 2019, the exchange swiftly relocated most of its operations to Moscow amidst increasing scrutiny.

As the money trail goes, Lazarus Group had to find new avenues to convert their loot into Bitcoin (BTC) after proactive efforts by Elliptic and several crypto exchanges froze the stolen wealth. The audacious criminals turned to the rogue exchange and the mixer, a well-known laundering tool in their arsenal, to transfer their wealth.

Just last month, Atomic Wallet fell victim to a sophisticated hack, resulting in the loss of $35 million in digital assets. Following the incident, Atomic sought the expertise of Chainalysis, a prominent blockchain security and analysis firm, to shed light on the matter. However, Chainalysis has chosen to remain silent about any progress made in the investigation.

In May of last year, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on,'s predecessor, in direct response to the service's frequent use by North Korean cybercriminals to support malicious activities and launder stolen virtual currency.

In an era where hacking groups like Lazarus strike with impunity, breaching platforms such as the Harmony Bridge and Ronin Bridge, it is crucial for the crypto community to remain vigilant and proactive in securing digital assets.

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