(RightWing.org) – Cryptocurrency reportedly started as a way for people to buy and sell illicit items like guns and drugs on the infamous “silk road” marketplace on the darknet, in large part because it was considered to be untraceable. It has since become more mainstream, to the point that the Federal Reserve is toying around with the idea of creating a central bank digital currency (CBDC), which has Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Conservative politicians working against it because of security and privacy issues surrounding something that only exists in cyberspace.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North/DPRK) and its leader Kim Jong-un seem to have an understanding of that because their state-sponsored hackers, the Lazarus Group, have been active in stealing and laundering large piles of virtual cash.
Adding Up Zeros and Ones
As the name suggests, digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have no physical properties. Instead, they exist only on computer servers that are vulnerable to black hat hackers who know how to breach the security protocols around them. This has allowed agents of the Glorious Leader of the DPRK to pilfer a large number of assets of which the ownership can be obscured.
Recent media reports say a group of American investors and a group of agents from the Republic of Korea (South/ROK) teamed up to track $100 million that was stolen from the cryptocurrency firm Harmony. Suspecting the DPRK was involved, they used sophisticated computer programs that allowed them to flag $1 million of that amount for officials in the United States to freeze.
Experts say the rest of the stolen assets remained unreachable, which may seem like a hollow victory. However, international efforts continue to try and block Kim’s access to money he could spend on building better missiles and nuclear warheads.
According to a United Nations Security Council report dated March 7, the DPRK “used increasingly sophisticated cyber techniques,” which allowed them to steal more cryptocurrency in 2022 than ever before. In only eight known breaches, the country was able to gain control of assets worth an estimated $630 million (although the value of digital money in terms of US dollars can vary greatly).
Stealing cryptocurrency is similar to a burglar getting hold of valuable jewelry or a well-known painting and using a fence to cash out the crime, which has given rise to “virtual currency mixers.” Also known as tumblers, these sites work by taking potentially traceable digital coins from numerous sources, putting them all into a virtual “black box,” shaking them up, and then sending them on their way without anyone knowing which coins went to which people.
The United States Treasury Department announced in an August 8, 2022, press release that they sanctioned one such mixer by the name of the Tornado Cash because of their work with the Lazarus Group. The cryptocurrency tumbler allegedly laundered more than $455 million from a DPRK “virtual currency heist” in 2019.
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