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Two Chinese nationals were charged with laundering over $100 million worth of cryptocurrency. North Korean hackers linked to the Lazarus Group were responsible for the WannaCry virus that hijacked 300,000 computers around the world in 2017, as well as several digital cryptocurrency heists that scored hundreds of millions of dollars. They turned their bulging digital wallets into cold hard cash with a little help from China, and iTunes.

WannaCry hackers had Chinese help

Tian Yinyin, and Li Jiadong were charged with “money laundering conspiracy” and “operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.” These defendants allegedly “laundered over a hundred million dollars worth of stolen cryptocurrency to obscure transactions for the benefit of actors based in North Korea,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski states.

The hackers linked to the Lazarus Group are the same bunch of cyber-criminals behind the 2017 WannaCry attack which crippled global communications by hijacking 300,000 computers, toasters, refrigerators and smart appliances around the world.

According to the complaint, The defendants worked their way around “know-your-customer” controls by “submitting doctored photographs and falsified identification documentation.” They operated through independent as well as linked accounts and provided virtual currency transmission services for a fee for customers. Tian “laundered some of the money by selling Bitcoin for prepaid Apple iTunes gift cards.”

WannaCry

Seizing the money back from the criminals

As spelled out in a two-count indictment filed in Washington’s District of Columbia on Monday, “today’s actions underscore that the Department will pierce the veil of anonymity provided by cryptocurrencies to hold criminals accountable, no matter where they are located.” The feds want to recover the funds, starting with what they already seized.

In just one of their successful hack attacks, the North Korean hackers stole almost $250 million worth of an unnamed virtual “crypto” currency in April of 2018. The asset forfeiture complaint details how the Chinese men laundered the funds through “automated transactions” using “113 virtual currency accounts” to keep authorities from tracing the funds.

The Hermit Kingdom is already under crippling sanctions from both the Unites States and the United Nations for Kim Jong Un’s offensive toy rockets. Especially the ones with nuclear capability. The WannaCry attack and cryptocurrency thefts were one of his workaround solutions.

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