The U.S. government sought on Thursday to seize 280 cryptocurrency accounts that were utilized by North Korean hackers who stole millions of dollars of cryptocurrency from two virtual exchanges and used Chinese traders to launder their funds.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil forfeiture complaint after having, in March, charged two Chinese nationals with laundering greater than US$ 100 million in cryptocurrency on behalf of North Korea.
Earlier court filings detailed what U.S. regulators have marked as Pyongyang’s use of hackers to circumvent sanctions. “Today’s action publicly shows the ongoing relations among North Korea’s cyber-hacking application and a Chinese cryptocurrency money laundering community,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brain Rabbitt Brian Rabbitt of the Justice department’s criminal department stated in a statement.
Cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and ether, are created using a computer technique known as mining, which requires powerful hardware. Once generated, they can be exchanged on anonymous online structures for different currencies consisting of the U.S. greenback, permitting illegal hobby which includes money laundering and sanctions violations.
The United Nations protection Council has imposed sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to stop investment for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. North Korea has developed an estimated US$2 billion for weapons of mass destruction applications using “tremendous and increasingly sophisticated” cyber-attacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, a U.N. record stated last year.
In the first hack, the North Korean hackers are accused of stealing more than $272,000 in cryptocurrencies and tokens and laundering it using numerous intermediary addresses and other virtual currency exchanges within the subsequent months to obfuscate the funds’ origins.
In the second hack, North Korea-associated actors are accused of having access to the digital currency wallets of a U.S.-based company and stealing almost $2.5 million turned into funneled through 100 accounts at another virtual currency exchange.
The Justice Department said in an announcement on Thursday that one group of Chinese cryptocurrency buyers is responsible for laundering the money stolen from these hacks.
The U.N. professionals stated that attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges have allowed North Korea to generate earnings without the oversight common in traditional banking channels. North Korea denied those U.N. allegations, calling them a “fabrication” geared toward tarnishing its image.