A market intelligence firm, Chainalysis, has revealed that hackers from North Korea are utilizing Russian cryptocurrency exchanges to launder stolen digital assets. This discovery was made through on-chain data analysis, which uncovered the movement of funds stolen from the decentralized app project Harmony (ONE) earlier this year.
This development comes as the United Nations warns about North Korea’s increasing use of sophisticated cyberattacks to fund its nuclear missile programs. The report states that “state-sponsored” hacking groups affiliated with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are targeting cryptocurrency and financial exchanges worldwide.
Chainalysis has identified a Russia-based exchange known for processing illicit transactions where $21.9 million of cryptocurrency stolen from Harmony Protocol has been transferred. Furthermore, evidence suggests that DPRK entities have been using Russian services, including this exchange, for money laundering since 2021. This deepens the collaboration between the cyber underworlds of these two nations.
However, Chainalysis reports a decrease in the activities of North Korean hacking groups in 2023 compared to the previous year. While they have been less prolific, the value of stolen cryptocurrency associated with DPRK groups exceeds $340.4 million this year, a significant sum but lower than the $1.65 billion reported in 2022.
The partnership between North Korea and Russia in cybercrime highlights the escalating threats faced by the global cryptocurrency ecosystem. It underscores the urgent need for increased cybersecurity measures and international cooperation to combat money laundering and illicit activities within the cryptocurrency market.
Chainalysis’ analysis serves as a wake-up call for regulators and industry participants to strengthen their efforts in identifying and preventing illicit transactions. With the evolving tactics of rogue nations and hacking groups, proactive measures are crucial to maintaining the integrity and security of the crypto space.