North Korean Hackers Launder $147.5 Million Stolen Cryptocurrency

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.15 - 2024 10:26 AM CET

North Korean hackers have laundered $147.5 million in stolen cryptocurrency.

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In a major cybercrime operation, North Korean hackers are reported to have stolen $147.5 million from the HTX cryptocurrency exchange last year.

They laundered this vast sum in March through the cryptocurrency platform Tornado Cash, as detailed by UN monitors and covered in reports by Reuters.

Pattern of Cyberattacks

This theft is part of a wider pattern of cyberattacks by North Korea. UN monitors have looked into 97 such cases from 2017 to 2024, targeting cryptocurrency firms and leading to total losses of around $3.6 billion.

In 2024 alone, North Korean groups are suspected of being behind 11 cryptocurrency thefts worth $54.7 million.

These illegal activities are thought to provide significant financial support to North Korea’s economy.

Many of the thefts are reportedly carried out by North Korean IT workers stationed abroad, employed by smaller cryptocurrency-related companies.

International Response

These actions have led to global condemnation and resulted in the US imposing sanctions on Tornado Cash in 2022. Last year, two founders of this platform were charged with helping to launder over a billion dollars, including funds associated with North Korean cybercriminals.

The international response has been complicated by the disbandment of the UN sanctions monitors in late April, after Russia blocked the renewal of their mandate.

Nevertheless, a preliminary report was submitted to the UN Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee, detailing persistent illegal activities. The report also points out ongoing maritime evasion tactics used by North Korea.

These include ship-to-ship coal transfers to Chinese waters and suspected arms trading with Russia, involving frequent journeys between the North Korean port of Rajin and Russian ports like Vladivostok.

North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006, which aim to cut off funding for its missile and nuclear programs. Despite these efforts, North Korea continues to conduct activities that violate international norms and pose threats to global security.

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