Crypto hacks and scams have become prevalent, and cryptocurrency platforms must be one step ahead to arrest the situation. In a recent report, Binance and Huobi announced the seizure of $1.4 million in crypto funds related to the June 2022 Harmony bridge exploitation.
The February 14 report revealed that the two crypto exchanges overtook and blocked the funds’ movement in accounts linked to the notorious North Korean hackers. More details revealed that blockchain analytics firm Elliptic conducted investigations that led to the fund recovery.
Elliptic Aids Recovery of A Fraction Of Funds From Harmony Exploit
On June 22, 2022, the notorious Lazarus crime group of North Korea compromised Harmony’s Horizon Bridge and stole ~$100 million in crypto assets. According to reports, the attack started at 7:08 am and lasted till 7:26 am, allowing the hackers to cart away millions of dollars in various tokens via 11 transactions. After the hack, the criminals sent the funds to another wallet on Uniswap decentralized exchange to swap them for Ether.
The exploitation was deemed serious since the Horizon Bridge facilitates token transfers between Harmony and three large networks, Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Binance Chain. Therefore, ongoing investigations have been conducted to track down the hackers and recover the funds. The US Federal Bureau of Intelligence tracked the Harmony exploit to the North Korean Lazarus Group.
Meanwhile, the stolen funds remained dormant until recently, when the criminals started funneling them through complex transaction chains to several exchanges. Elliptic, one of the firms investigating the matter, got a lead on the stolen funds and sent the intel to Binance and Huobi.
The analytics firm notified the crypto exchanges of the illegal deposits on their platforms, and they froze the accounts linked to the hackers. According to the report, the frozen accounts hold about $1.4 million in crypto tokens.
Lazarus Group Linked To Multiple Crypto-Related Money Laundering
Several North Korean groups have been linked to crypto-related money laundering and wire fraud, causing countries to bar them. Reports noted that the Lazarus Group used the OFAC-sanctioned Tornado Cash privacy mixer to launder the funds after the Harmony theft. Although using a privacy mixer makes it easier to move funds on exchanges, it also aided Eliptic’s investigations as the firm could trace the stolen funds through the mixer.
In a statement, the CEO of Elliptic, Simone Maini, commented on the development. He said the event shows the industry is taking action to prevent money laundering and stop the cryptocurrency space from becoming a haven for criminal activities.
The recent event isn’t the first time Huobi has cooperated with Binance to solve the Harmony hack exploitation. On January 16, the two cryptocurrency exchanges froze and recovered 121 BTC worth $2.5 million, at the time, connected to the Harmony attack.
However, the recent recoveries are only a fraction of the $63.5 million already laundered by the group over the weekend. According to on-chain sleuth ZachXBT, the criminals funneled the 41,000 ETH via Railgun, an Ethereum-based privacy protocol, before sending them to three exchanges.
Also, the latest Elliptic investigations discovered that Lazarus Group laundered around $100 million in BTC through Sinbad. The firm claim Sinbad is a re-launch of the OFAC-sanctioned privacy mixer Blender.