Two Chinese citizens were recently charged with laundering over 100 million dollars for North Korean hackers. This recent case has bought to light just to what extent North Korea is using cryptocurrencies to ‘circumvent’ the sanctions imposed on them.
North Korean hackers and crypto
On March 2, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) charged two men amid a court case that revealed North Korea’s use of cyber-attacks to bypass sanctions imposed on the nation.
As per Reuters’s report, the two men have been charged for laundering more than 100 million dollars in crypto on behalf of North Korea. The court filings focused on Pyongyang’s use of cyber-criminals to circumvent sanctions. As per the filing, the two have been involved in cybercrime since December 2017 and have assisted North Korea in money laundering till April 2019.
The two used various methods to throw off the trail of stolen crypto and obscured transactions for benefit of actors based in North Korea.
Some of the funds moved by the two were assets that North Korean hackers had stolen from a crypto exchange in 2018. Although the statement revealed no names, the volume of stolen funds suggests that it was Japanese crypto exchange Coincheck that was hacked the same year. In the hack, Coincheck lost access to over 500 million US dollars worth of cryptocurrencies.
The assets were then laundered using dusting techniques that made myriads of automated transactions to cover up the source of funds as well as its trail.
North Korea has suffered international sanctions over its ballistic missile program since 2006 but has been using alternative methods to avoid the sanctions. On numerous occasions, it was reported that North Korean hackers, especially the Lazarus group, have been using cybercrime to circumvent the sanctions.
Featured image by pixabay.