United States Moves to Seize 280 Crypto Accounts Tied to North Korean Hackers
The United States Department of Justice is moving to seize 280 “cryptocurrency accounts” in an attempt to seize millions of dollars’ worth of stolen cryptocurrency that has been linked with North Korean hackers. The news came in an official statement by the Department of Justice.
Hackers originating from North Korea have also previously been identified as the culprits in a number of crypto-related cybercrimes that are seemingly engineered to fund the country’s operations, including building its military.
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“Ongoing connections” exist between “North Korea’s cyber-hacking program and a Chinese cryptocurrency money laundering network.”
The statement did not identify exactly what kind of “crypto accounts” the DOJ is attempting to seize, nor on what platforms they might exist on. However, the statement did say that hackers had attempted to launder millions of dollars’ worth of stolen funds through Chinese over-the-counter trading platforms.
Acting assistant attorney general Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said that therefore, “today’s action publicly exposes the ongoing connections between North Korea’s cyber-hacking program and a Chinese cryptocurrency money laundering network.”
“This case underscores the department’s ongoing commitment to counter the threat presented by North Korean cyber hackers by exposing their criminal networks and tracing and seizing their ill-gotten gains,” Rabbitt explained.
The international flow of illegal capital seems to be increasingly perceived as a national security threat
The movement to seize the 280 accounts seems to indicate that the United States is taking the threat of cryptocurrency theft more seriously as a possible national security threat.
Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin of the Washington DC commented that the initiative to seize the account also said that fighting back against the hackers was demonstrative of “our commitment to safeguarding national security.”
“This office has been at the forefront of targeting North Korea’s criminal attacks on the financial system,” he continued, adding that “this complaint reveals the incredible skill of our Cryptocurrency Strike Force in tracing and seizing virtual currency, which criminals previously thought to be impossible.” The “Cryptocurrency Strike Force” appears to be a task force formed within the United States Department of Justice.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations also appears to have been involved in the movement to seize the accounts: “FBI efforts to stop the flow of threat finance around the world are central to our strategy to address transnational crime,” said Calvin A. Shivers, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
“This strategy is strengthened by the skills and expertise we continue to develop in virtual asset investigations such as this, which enable the FBI and our partners to identify and seize illicit assets.”
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s HSI was also involved: Special Agent Steven Cagen commented that “as North Korea becomes bolder and more desperate in their efforts to steal money using sophisticated money laundering techniques, [Homeland Security Investigations] will continue to apply pressure by exposing their fraudulent transactions.”
Indeed, it seems as though the United States is taking cybercrime threats from North Korea more seriously in general. In July, the U.S. Army published a 332-page document entitled “North Korean Tactics.” The document alleged that North Korea has about 6,000 hackers, many of whom have based their operations internationally.
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