March 27, 2020

Cryptocurrency Laundering Is a National Security Risk

By Yaya J. Fanusie

On March 2, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted two Chinese nationals for allegedly laundering cryptocurrency on behalf of North Korea. The laundering scheme ferreted away part of almost $250 million worth of virtual currencies stolen from a cryptocurrency exchange in 2018 by the North Korean-affiliated Lazarus Group. Through elaborate software programming, the two Chinese nationals, Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong, converted much of the stolen cryptocurrency into regular currency at Chinese banks, according to a U.S. Treasury announcement sanctioning them both.

The case exemplifies how cryptocurrency obfuscation tools and techniques are likely to play a growing role in financing threats to U.S. national security. As U.S. adversaries get more acquainted with blockchain technology, their hostile cyber operations are likely to rely increasingly on cryptocurrency activity. And rogue states are likely to become more innovative in using cryptocurrencies as they try to dampen the impact of U.S. economic sanctions.

Read the full article in Lawfare.

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