A recent blog post market intelligence firm Chainalysis reveals that hackers from North Korea are utilizing Russian crypto exchanges to launder stolen digital assets. The data obtained from blockchain analysis indicates that these hacking groups associated with North Korea have been using Russian exchanges to launder funds acquired from the exploitation of Harmony (ONE), a decentralized app project.
This alarming development comes at a time when independent sanctions monitors are expressing concerns about North Korea’s evolving tactics in the realm of cyber warfare. A forthcoming United Nations report warns that North Korea is resorting to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks to finance its nuclear missile programs. State-sponsored hacking groups are now targeting cryptocurrency and financial exchanges globally.
Chainalysis data further indicates that a significant sum of $21.9 million in stolen cryptocurrency from Harmony Protocol was recently transferred to a Russian exchange known for processing illicit transactions. The evidence also suggests that North Korean entities have been engaging in money laundering operations through various Russian services, including this particular exchange, since 2021. This marks a significant escalation in the partnership between the two nations’ cyber underworlds.
While the frequency of North Korean hacking groups’ activities has decreased in 2023 compared to the previous year, Chainalysis notes that the figures from 2022 were “catastrophically high.” It is estimated that the value of stolen cryptocurrency associated with North Korean groups has exceeded $340.4 million this year, a significant decrease from the reported $1.65 billion in stolen funds in 2022.
This new revelation highlights the ongoing challenges in combating cybercrime and money laundering in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. It underscores the importance of robust security measures and international cooperation to address these evolving threats.