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How does North Korea use crypto to evade the law?


The US Department of Justice recently accused Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong for laundering more than $ 100 million of stolen cryptocurrencies. According to the authorities, this money would be destined to benefit their alleged conspiracies in North Korea.

We have all heard about the ability of Bitcoin to be used to evade the law. However, have you ever wondered how they do it?

According to the US Department of Justice, North Korean hackers were responsible for stealing $ 250 million from a crypto exchange. Subsequently, two Chinese citizens were responsible for helping them launder $ 100 million through the sale of iTunes prepaid cards and other methods.

Even more worrying is that, according to documents revealed by the United States government, hackers appear to have been supported by the Kim Jong-un government.

Apparently the scheme is linked to the Lazarus Group, perfected its tactics. Often using the so-called “peel chains” to cover their trails.

The theft of the crypto exchange apparently occurred in 2018, after an employee of the same unknowingly downloaded a malware from North Korea. Obviously this allowed the attacker to have access to private keys, cryptocurrencies and customer information.

Is North Korea a threat?

According to the document revealed by the US government, it is explained why it is desired to seize 113 cryptocurrency accounts associated with money laundering in North Korea.

It is worth remembering that the Kim Jong-un regime is economically isolated by specific restrictions to hamper its nuclear weapons program. So cryptocurrencies allowed North Korea the possibility of generating income, even if they are stolen, bypassing those restrictions.

The main problem is that, in August last year, experts told the United Nations that North Korea not only carries out increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks to steal up to $ 2 billion USD. He is using that money to finance his nuclear weapons program.

How did they manage to launder the funds in cryptocurrencies?

However, it is useless to have so much money in cryptocurrencies, since there are few companies that accept it, so they face the task of bringing this money to some fiat currency. The question is: How to do it without raising suspicion?

It is here that Tian and Li play their main role, successfully washing $ 100 million in cryptocurrencies for North Korea. However, anyone trying to launder funds in cryptocurrencies faces two problems:

First, you cannot make large sum deposits in different crypto exchanges. Secondly, keep in mind that transactions in Bitcoin can be tracked.

In this way, in order to avoid the aforementioned obstacles, hackers sent the stolen cryptocurrencies through a long chain of transfers to new addresses. In addition, a small piece of the set was divided and sent to another address. This is how hackers prevent their transactions from being tracked.

So, according to the US government report, the North Koreans applied the “peel chains” in order to avoid tracking.

However, the US government He is also concerned that the use of crypto exchanges to launder cryptocurrencies has increased, despite the fact that most comply with the rules against money laundering. And the strategy is to use legitimate user accounts in these crypto exchanges that offer to help them.

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