North Korea Uses Tornado Cash to Launder $148 Million in Stolen Cryptocurrency

  • Last updated May 15, 2024
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A United Nations sanctions investigation has unearthed that North Korea laundered a staggering $1478 million through the cryptocurrency platform Tornado Cash in March, following a cyber heist at the HTX cryptocurrency exchange last year.

This revelation was part of a confidential report observed by Reuters, prepared by U.N. sanctions monitors, and presented to a U.N. Security Council sanctions committee last Friday.

The monitors have been tracking North Korean cyber activities, identifying 97 suspected cyberattacks on cryptocurrency firms from 2017 to 2024, cumulatively worth approximately $3.6 billion.

Specific to 2024, the investigation pinpointed 11 cryptocurrency thefts totaling $54.7 million, believed to have involved North Korean IT workers employed unwittingly by small crypto-related companies.

In 2024, the monitors reported examining “11 cryptocurrency thefts … valued at $54.7 million,” adding that many of those “may have been conducted by DPRK IT workers inadvertently hired by small crypto-related companies.”

. The sanctions have been progressively tightened over the years, but North Korea continues to find avenues to finance its activities, including through illicit cyber operations.

The U.S. has previously sanctioned Tornado Cash, accusing it of facilitating over $1 billion in money laundering activities, including those connected to North Korean cybercrime networks. Despite these charges, Tornado Cash co-founder Roman Storm has pled not guilty in the U.S.

Furthermore, the report touches on ongoing concerns about North Korean and Russian interactions, including the suspected arms trade and the movement of funds and assets between the two nations, which continues to challenge international sanctions efforts.

The U.N. sanctions monitors who compiled the report were disbanded at the end of April after Russia vetoed the renewal of their mandate, leaving some of their work unfinished and not fully vetted by the committee’s usual process.

This complex web of international intrigue underscores the persistent and evolving challenge of global cybersecurity and economic sanctions enforcement.

Experts stress the importance of cybersecurity measures in response to the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks. Utilizing the best VPN services can provide an essential layer of security, encrypting data and obscuring digital footprints to protect against similar vulnerabilities and unauthorized access to sensitive information.


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