North Korea's Lazarus Group Laundered $200M in Crypto, Reveals ZachXBT Investigation

Crypto sleuth ZachXBT’s investigation reveals that North Korea’s Lazarus Group laundered over $200 million in stolen cryptocurrency with the help of coin mixers and peer-to-peer exchanges.

ZachXBT Finds $200M Laundered

On-chain investigator ZachXBT has delved deep into the many laundering operations of North Korea’s Lazarus Group, involving over $200 million in stolen cryptocurrency. The investigation, spanning from August 2020 to October 2023, revealed sophisticated methods employed by the hacker collective.

ZachXBT’s investigation, which scrutinized more than 25 exploits on various blockchains, meticulously traced the movement of illicitly gained funds. The funds were found to have been passed through coin mixers, peer-to-peer marketplaces, and centralized exchanges, effectively removing them from the crypto ecosystem.

Use of Mixers and Exchanges

The Lazarus Group notably favored the Ethereum mixer Tornado Cash and the Bitcoin-based ChipMixer in their operations. Furthermore, the hackers also converted substantial amounts of cryptocurrency into fiat through peer-to-peer exchanges. Accounts linked to the group received $44 million from these hacks, with usernames “EasyGoatfish351” and “FairJunco470” identified on P2P platforms.

Addressing their findings on social media, ZachXBT wrote, 

“Thousands of people in the space have been impacted directly and indirectly by Lazarus Group attacks, and it seems that number will only continue to increase.”

Lazarus Group’s Notorious History

The Lazarus Group is infamous for executing significant cryptocurrency heists, employing sophisticated cyberattacks to steal funds. They have been linked to large-scale exploits, including the $100 million Harmony bridge exploit in January 2023 and the Ronin bridge hack of March 2022. 

According to the United Nations Security Council, their cumulative thefts amount to over $3 billion in digital assets. The UNSC also alleges that these activities fund North Korea’s weapons program.

Scrutiny on Mixers Like Tornado Cash

Tornado Cash, a cryptocurrency mixing app, has come under scrutiny from US authorities due to its use by the Lazarus Group for laundering large sums of funds. Just a month ago, the group used Tornado Cash to launder $12 million worth of stolen ETH funds.

US authorities have taken action against Tornado Cash developers Roman Storm and Alexey Pertsev, charging them with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit sanctions violations, and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

Despite efforts to crack down on crypto mixers, Chainalysis data reports only a 29% decline in money laundering activities in 2023. The Lazarus Group’s recent return to Tornado Cash underscores the ongoing battle between regulators and cybercriminals. 

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. 

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