US reissues sanctions on Tornado Cash, tying it to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program
Jonathan Greig November 8, 2022

US reissues sanctions on Tornado Cash, tying it to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program

US reissues sanctions on Tornado Cash, tying it to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program

The U.S. Treasury Department reissued sanctions on the Tornado Cash cryptocurrency mixer service, accusing the platform of helping North Korean government hackers launder more than $455 million stolen in March 2022. 

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the mixer had provided “material support” to the Lazarus Group — a hacking collective U.S. law enforcement agencies believe works on behalf of the North Korean government. 

Price said the group’s hacks specifically support North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program.

“The use of Tornado Cash to launder stolen funds represents a larger trend by the DPRK regime to resort to illicit activities, including cyber-enabled heists from virtual currency exchanges and financial institutions, to generate revenue for its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs,” Price said. “The United States is committed to countering the regime’s attempts to raise funds through illicit activity and will continue to take actions against entities facilitating such activity.”

North Korea launched a barrage of missiles last week and threatened to test nuclear missiles after the U.S. and South Korea militaries held training exercises. The missile launches were in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said the sanctions targets two key nodes of the DPRK’s weapons programs: its increasing reliance on illicit activities, including cybercrime, to generate revenue, and its ability to procure and transport goods in support of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

The U.S. also sanctioned two men – Sok Ri and Zhiyong Yan – for their role in violating sanctions by helping facilitate the sending of missile parts to North Korea. 

Tornado Cash was previously sanctioned in August for its role in helping North Korea launcher stolen cryptocurrency from several hacks of decentralized finance platforms over the last year. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Treasury openly accused North Korea of being involved in the $100 million hack of Harmony Bridge and in the theft of about $7.8 million from a cryptocurrency platform called Nomad. Tornado Cash was used to launder funds in both cases. 

The U.S. has also previously accused North Korean hackers of being behind the headline-grabbing attack on Ronin Network, which saw almost $600 million in cryptocurrency stolen.

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.