North Korean Hackers Use Russian Crypto Exchanges for Illicit Digital Assets

A market intelligence firm has reported that North Korean hackers are making use of Russian cryptocurrency exchanges, known for their involvement in money laundering, to transfer stolen digital assets.

In a recent blog post, the crypto analytics platform Chainalysis has unveiled that their on-chain data shows that hacking groups with connections to North Korea are utilizing Russian cryptocurrency exchanges to launder the proceeds they obtained from exploiting the decentralized app project Harmony (ONE) earlier this year.

“In light of the historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, our on-chain data has uncovered some concerning developments: hacking groups associated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are increasingly turning to Russian exchanges, known for their involvement in processing illicit cryptocurrency assets.

This development coincides with growing concerns voiced by independent sanctions monitors regarding North Korea’s evolving strategies in cyber warfare. An upcoming report from the United Nations is warning that the DPRK is employing increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks to finance its nuclear missile programs, with ‘state-sponsored’ hacking groups targeting cryptocurrency and financial exchanges worldwide.

According to Chainalysis data, approximately $21.9 million in cryptocurrency stolen from the Harmony Protocol was recently moved to a Russian-based exchange known for its involvement in handling illicit transactions.

Moreover, Chainalysis has gathered evidence demonstrating that DPRK entities have been engaged in money laundering using Russian services, including this particular exchange, since 2021. This recent activity marks a significant escalation in the collaboration between the cyber networks of these two nations.”

Chainalysis’ data further indicates that North Korean hacking groups have been less active in 2023 compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, the crypto analytics firm points out that their activities reached extraordinarily high levels in 2022.

“Based on Chainalysis data, the total value of stolen cryptocurrency linked to DPRK groups has surpassed $340.4 million this year, in contrast to the reported figure of over $1.65 billion in stolen funds during 2022.

Although North Korea-affiliated hackers appear to be stealing less cryptocurrency compared to last year, it’s crucial to recognize that the exceptionally high numbers from 2022 set an unusually high benchmark to surpass.”

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. Cryptocurrency investments are subject to market risks, and individuals should seek professional advice before making any investment decisions.

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