Binance, Huobi freeze some cryptocurrency stolen in $100 million Harmony hack
Cryptocurrency exchanges Binance and Huobi froze accounts that contained $1.4 million worth of assets stolen from blockchain company Harmony last June.
The platforms were notified about the funds by blockchain research company Elliptic, which managed to trace it through sanctioned cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash.
U.S. authorities said Tornado Cash was frequently used by hackers connected to the North Korean military, some of whom were implicated by the FBI in the attack on Harmony.
Elliptic said the funds stolen from Harmony were laundered through Tornado Cash after the attack on June 24 but “remained dormant until recently,” when investigators at the company saw the cryptocurrency was being funneled through complex chains of transactions to exchanges like Binance and Huobi.
“Today, money laundering was detected and stolen funds linked to North Korea were frozen, in real time. As an industry we have the power and responsibility to prevent digital assets becoming a haven for money launderers and sanctions evaders, and ensure that they are a force for good,” said Elliptic CEO Simone Maini.
Binance has played a complicated role in the cryptocurrency world as one of the last remaining giants. While Binance has frequently sought to promote its role in freezing crypto assets obtained through theft and routed through its platform, it has also faced accusations of facilitating money laundering.
In April 2022, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao said the cryptocurrency platform froze $5.8 million in funds that were stolen from popular DeFi platform Ronin Network by cybercriminals connected to the North Korean government.
In December 2022 they also froze about $3 million worth of cryptocurrency stolen from Web3 infrastructure provider Ankr.
But that same month, U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors said they were considering levying charges against Zhao and Binance after Reuters reported that the platform did little to stop money laundering and ended up processing more than $10 billion in payments for criminals and companies seeking to evade U.S. sanctions.
Some U.S. officials felt that the company “plotted to evade regulators in the United States and elsewhere,” according to Reuters. Binance has actively disputed the allegations and has met with prosecutors multiple times to illustrate its commitment to stopping money laundering.
Jonathan Greig is a Breaking News Reporter at Recorded Future News. Jonathan has worked across the globe as a journalist since 2014. Before moving back to New York City, he worked for news outlets in South Africa, Jordan and Cambodia. He previously covered cybersecurity at ZDNet and TechRepublic.