North Korea has quietly become a cryptocurrency superpower. It has stolen billions in bitcoin and ether and is funneling profits to its nuclear weapons program.
The US is trying to make this process harder for crypto launderers in general and North Korea in particular. Citing the threat from the Kim regime, the US Treasury banned bitcoin mixer Blender in May, followed by the Tornado Cash mixer in August.
The US government is limited in what it can do to stop North Korea’s crypto heists. The Treasury Department is actively trying to dull laundering tools used by the regime, leading to its bans on Tornado Cash and Blender. Perhaps more significantly, the FBI has been working to recover stolen funds. Collaborating with blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, the FBI in September froze $30 million in crypto stolen from Ronin.
Major hacks attributed to North Korea have died down in recent months. The crypto winter, when bitcoin and ether plunged in value amid recession fears, has led to a hiring freeze. The regime is also still busy laundering the funds it stole during the first half of the year. But the industry has proven too lucrative for North Korea to cease operations.