Binance assists US in freezing $4.4m tied to North Korea
Crypto exchange Binance has announced its collaboration with US law enforcement agencies, seizing $4.4 million worth of crypto assets connected to cybercrime organizations operating in North Korea.
In a series of tweets on May 25, Binance revealed that its investigations team actively worked with US authorities to disrupt the illicit revenue-generating activities of four now-sanctioned entities based in North Korea.
The coordinated efforts were undertaken in compliance with lawfully served warrants and close cooperation with law enforcement, according to Binance.
The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had previously declared sanctions against four entities and one individual involved in malicious cyber activities supporting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Government.
The entities targeted by the sanctions were the Chinyong Information Technology Cooperation Company, Pyongyang University of Automation, the 110th Research Center, and the Technical Reconnaissance Bureau.
The Chinyong company is known to employ thousands of highly skilled IT workers worldwide, allegedly involved in generating revenue to support unlawful weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs.
The workers are believed to utilize fake or stolen identities to secure overseas IT positions, including roles in the technology and cryptocurrency sectors. The payments received for their work are subsequently laundered back to North Korea through crypto exchanges.
The OFAC sanctions also encompassed an individual named Kim Sang Man, who is suspected of being involved in salary payments to family members of Chinyong’s overseas worker delegations. Kim also allegedly received $2 million worth of cryptocurrency by selling IT equipment to DPRK-affiliated teams in China and Russia.
The Technical Reconnaissance Bureau, another sanctioned entity, is recognized as a key driver of the DPRK’s offensive cyber tactics and tools. It oversees various departments, including those associated with the Lazarus Group.
The notorious Lazarus Group has been implicated in numerous cyberattacks on cryptocurrency and blockchain projects in recent years. It was responsible for the $620 million hack on the Ronin Bridge of Axie Infinity in March 2022.
Binance’s involvement in combating cybercrime extends beyond this recent operation. In late April, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao revealed that the exchange had successfully recovered $5.8 million from the Lazarus Group after identifying suspicious transactions involving ill-gotten funds.
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