Massive Ethereum Laundering Operation: North Korean Hackers Exploit Tornado Cash For $12M

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In a current improvement, North Korean hackers related to the infamous Lazarus Group have exploited the coin-mixing service Twister Money to launder roughly $12 million value of stolen Ethereum (ETH) inside the previous 24 hours. 

The incident follows the theft of $100 million in cryptocurrency from the HTX crypto alternate and its HECO Bridge in November 2023, attributed to the Lazarus Group by blockchain analytics agency Elliptic and different consultants.

$100M Crypto Heist And Ethereum Laundering Uncovered

The Lazarus Group, a well known cybercrime group believed to be backed by the North Korean regime, has a protracted historical past of conducting high-profile hacking campaigns. 

In line with Elliptic’s newest crypto crime report, in November 2023, the infamous Lazarus Group allegedly orchestrated a serious heist focusing on the HTX crypto alternate and its cross-chain bridge, ensuing within the theft of $100 million in varied cryptocurrencies, together with Ethereum. 

Proof gathered by Elliptic and different consultants pointed to the involvement of the Lazarus Group primarily based on the modus operandi and subsequent motion of the stolen funds.

The investigation additional notes that, following their “standard sample” of crypto-laundering, the hackers shortly transformed the stolen tokens into Ethereum by way of decentralized exchanges (DEXs). 

These illicitly acquired Ethereum funds remained dormant till lately, on March 13, when the hackers started funneling them by way of Twister Money. Twister Money is a decentralized, sensible contract-based mixer beforehand sanctioned by the US Treasury in August 2022 for its affiliation with laundering $455 million from the Lazarus Group crypto hacks.

Nonetheless, the decentralized nature of Twister Money’s operations has prevented it from being shut down like centralized mixers like Sinbad.io.

The Final Resort For Lazarus Group

In line with the blockchain analytics agency, in response to the sanctions imposed on Twister Money, the Lazarus Group shifted its focus to utilizing cross-chain bridges and the Bitcoin-based mixer Sinbad.io in its place. 

Nonetheless, in November 2023, Sinbad.io itself was seized by US authorities, eliminating one other commingling choice for the hackers. In consequence, the group seems to have returned to Twister Money, utilizing its decentralized structure and resistance to raids to launder funds at scale and obscure its transaction path.

Finally, Elliptic means that the resurgence of the Lazarus Group’s reliance on Twister Money could be attributed to the “diminishing availability” of large-scale mixers on account of legislation enforcement operations focusing on companies like Sinbad.io and Blender.io. 

With fewer viable options, the group has capitalized on Twister Money’s continued operation regardless of sanctions, exploiting sensible contracts’ safety and decentralized nature on blockchain networks.

Ethereum
The each day chart exhibits ETH’s worth trending downwards for the previous 24 hours. Supply: ETHUSD on TradingView.com

As of the time of writing, Ethereum is at the moment buying and selling at $3,870. Earlier this week, it reached a two-year excessive of $4,084; nonetheless, it didn’t maintain consolidation above this stage. Consequently, over the previous 24 hours, ETH has skilled a 2.5% decline in worth.

Featured picture from Shutterstock, chart from TradingView.com

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