Crypto Holdings of $1.4 Million Linked to North Korea Frozen by Binance and Huobi

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Written by Joy Rice

Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic has reported that cryptocurrencies worth around $1.4 million linked to North Korea have been frozen by Binance and Huobi, two major crypto exchanges. Elliptic also pointed out that these stolen funds, which had remained inactive until recently, were traced back to the hack of Harmony’s Horizon Bridge in June 2022.

Blockchain analytics firm Elliptic said Tuesday that it has collaborated with cryptocurrency exchanges Binance and Huobi “to freeze Lazarus Group hack proceeds.” Elliptic wrote:

Crypto exchanges Binance and Huobi today froze accounts containing approximately $1.4 million in cryptoassets originating from the June 2022 hack of Harmony’s Horizon Bridge.

In June 2022, the Horizon cross-chain bridge was targeted in an attack that resulted in the theft of $99.6 million worth of cryptoassets. According to the blockchain analytics firm, the stolen funds were subsequently laundered through Tornado Cash, which has since been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) in August of the same year. Tornado Cash is an Ethereum mixer.

According to Elliptic’s report from June of last year, the hacker who targeted the Horizon Bridge transferred more than 98% of the stolen crypto assets, which totaled $100 million, to the Tornado Cash mixer. The assets that were stolen included ether (ETH), tether (USDT), wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC), and Binance coin (BNB), the report stated. Additionally, the hacker quickly converted the Ethereum-based assets into 85,837 ETH using Uniswap.

Elliptic’s investigators were able to trace the full path of the funds through the mixer and determined that the hack was carried out by the Lazarus Group, a cybercrime organization controlled by North Korea. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) later verified the Lazarus Group’s role in the attack.

Elliptic added: 

The stolen funds remained dormant until recently when our investigators began to see them funneled through complex chains of transactions to exchanges.

Elliptic CEO Simone Maini commented: “Today, money laundering was detected, and stolen funds linked to North Korea were frozen, in real-time.”

“As an industry, we have the power and responsibility to prevent digital assets from becoming a haven for money launderers and sanctions evaders, and ensure that they are a force for good,” the CEO added.


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