North Korean hackers exploited Tornado Cash – what lies behind this operation?


North Korean Hackers Exploit Tornado Cash for Money Laundering in Cryptocurrencies

North Korean hackers affiliated with the Lazarus group have once again caught the attention of global media. Over the last 24 hours, they utilized the popular tool for money laundering in cryptocurrencies, Tornado Cash, to transfer approximately $12 million in stolen Ethereum. The Lazarus group has long been known for advanced cyber attacks targeting financial institutions.

History of Lazarus Group’s Activities

In November 2023, the Lazarus group stole $100 million in cryptocurrencies from HTX and HECO Bridge. The analytics firm Elliptic reported that the money laundering activity involving HTX cryptocurrency and the bridge between HTX Eco Chain (HECO) had been observed since March 13, with $12 million ending up in Tornado wallets.

Attack on Tornado Cash

The cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, which ensures transaction privacy, was stolen in November from the HTX cryptocurrency exchange and the bridge between HTX Eco Chain. Despite being previously blocked by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in August 2022, the Lazarus group decided to use this money laundering tool again.

Limitations of Other Mixer Services

Elliptic points out the limitations of other mixer services, such as Sinbad.io and Blender.io, which likely prompted the Lazarus group to return to using Tornado Cash. U.S. authorities are investigating the creators of mixers, like Roman Storm and Alexey Pertsev, accusing them of involvement in money laundering activities.

Sanctions Imposed on the Lazarus Group

As early as 2019, the United States government imposed sanctions on the Lazarus group. At that time, the group was accused of stealing over $2 billion in cryptocurrencies, which were purportedly intended for programs related to the development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles by North Korea. The actions of the Lazarus group raise understandable concerns within the global financial community.