Chainalysis Reports North Korean Hackers Utilizing Russian Crypto Exchanges for Laundering Illicit Digital Assets

A Market Intelligence Firm Reveals North Korean Hackers Leveraging Russian Crypto Exchanges for Laundering Stolen Digital Assets

In a recent blog post, the cryptocurrency analytics platform Chainalysis has disclosed that on-chain data indicates hacking groups with ties to North Korea are utilizing Russian cryptocurrency exchanges as part of their money laundering activities involving funds pilfered from the exploitation of the Harmony Protocol (ONE) decentralized app project earlier this year.

Chainalysis reports, "In the aftermath of a historic summit between Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, concerning on-chain data has come to light: Hacking groups associated with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are increasing their reliance on Russian exchanges with a history of facilitating illicit cryptocurrency transfers."

This development is occurring as independent sanctions monitors raise concerns about North Korea's evolving strategies in cyber warfare. A forthcoming United Nations report has warned that DPRK is employing increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks to finance its nuclear missile programs. State-sponsored hacking groups have been targeting cryptocurrency and financial exchanges worldwide.

According to Chainalysis data, approximately $21.9 million in cryptocurrency, stolen from Harmony Protocol, was recently moved to a Russian cryptocurrency exchange known for its involvement in illicit transactions. Additionally, Chainalysis has evidence indicating that DPRK entities have been employing Russian services, including this exchange, for money laundering purposes since 2021. This recent action marks a significant escalation in the collaboration between the cybercriminal elements of these two nations.

Chainalysis' data further reveals that North Korean hacking groups have been less active in 2023 compared to the previous year. However, the cryptocurrency analytics firm notes that their activities produced extraordinarily high figures in 2022.

As per Chainalysis data, the total value of stolen cryptocurrency linked to DPRK groups in 2023 has surpassed $340.4 million, a decrease from the over $1.65 billion in stolen funds reported in 2022. It is crucial to acknowledge that the figures from 2022 set an exceptionally high standard for comparison, making this year's numbers appear lower by comparison.

Source: Chainalysis

Sep 17, 2023

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