U.S. Seizes Crypto Mixer Linked to North Korean Regime

Опубликовано: 04 Декабрь 2023

Sinbad SeizedSinbad.io, a virtual currency mixer with alleged ties to North Korea, which has now been taken down by U.S. authorities. (Photo: sinbad.io)

The U.S. Treasury dismantled Wednesday a virtual currency mixer tied to the Lazarus Group, a state-sponsored cybercriminal organization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Sinbad.io, a virtual currency mixer and money laundering tool, siphoned millions in stolen crypto funds for the cyberhacking organization Lazarus Group, which has long been known to have the backing of the North Korean government.

Authorities have identified Lazarus as the culprits behind sophisticated digital currency heists that have deprived digital platforms of hundreds of millions of dollars, such as the US$100 million and $650 million attacks Horizon Bridge and Axie Infinity, respectively. The sophistication and technical expertise behind the group’s infiltration efforts meant that it took investigators several months to even establish Lazarus as the perpetrators.

Sinbad, which has now been seized by the U.S. government, was the platform through which the group laundered the ill-gotten gains behind their state-sponsored attacks. It also allowed its users to obfuscate transactions linked to criminal activities such as sanctions evasion, drug trafficking, and darknet marketplace purchases, the Treasury said.

The money laundering platform was pegged by cybercrime investigators as a successor to the Blender.io and Tornado Cash mixers, which were similarly taken offline by authorities in May and August 2022, respectively.

Lazarus itself was sanctioned back in 2019 as a state-sponsored criminal entity of the DPRK government. Throughout its 10-year operational existence, the group has been linked to more than $2 billion in stolen digital assets across multiple thefts.

It is through these heists, authorities believe, that North Korea accumulates billions in funding for its ever-growing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the sanctions highlight “Pyongyang’s aggressive cyber-theft campaign, which plays an essential role in generating funds for the DPRK’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.”

“Mixing services that enable criminal actors, such as the Lazarus Group, to launder stolen assets will face serious consequences,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. “The Treasury Department and its U.S. government partners stand ready to deploy all tools at their disposal to prevent virtual currency mixers, like Sinbad, from facilitating illicit activities.