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How North Korean hackers launder stolen crypto

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British multinational security company BAE Systems and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, have published a report revealing how cybercriminals launder cryptocurrency. 

According to the study Follow the Money money laundering cases via crypto are still relatively small compared to the huge volumes of cash laundered through traditional methods like wire transfers.

But there are some notable examples and the report goes in-depth into the money laundering methods employed by Lazarus Group, a well-known hacking gang sponsored by the North Korean regime.

Lazarus typically steals the crypto funds from an exchange and then starts to pass transactions through different multiple exchanges using something called a “layering technique.”

The hackers employ East Asian facilitators who receive a portion of the stolen funds for helping launder the funds. These facilitators transfer crypto across numerous addresses they own to “obfuscate the origin of the funds,” said the study.

“Facilitators move a portion of the received funds through newly added bank accounts that are linked to their exchange account – this enables the conversion from cryptocurrency into fiat currency. Other stolen funds might be transferred in Bitcoin into prepaid gift cards, which can be used at other exchanges to purchase additional Bitcoin.”

Cointelegraph recently reported that Lazarus was reportedly attacking crypto and blockchain talent through major professional social network, LinkedIn.



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Bad call? Bitfinex bears closed a block of Bitcoin shorts before the drop below $32K

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Bitcoin price is still in a rut, trading near $33,000 and trapped in a downtrend that just seems to get worse with the passing of each day. As the price slumps, analysts have consulted with several technical and on-chain metrics to explain the price collapse, but none of these have picked up on the exact reason. 

One area of interest has been the sharp rise in short positions at Bitfinex in the past week. Traders are placing exaggerated importance on these Bitcoin (BTC) margin shorts as if they are predictors of the current market crash. Still, as Cointelegraph previously reported, analysts forget that Bitcoin margin longs are usually much larger.

On June 18, longs outnumbered Bitfinex shorts by at least 22,800 BTC, but 87% of the short positions were closed before June 22. Currently, margin longs are 43,850 BTC higher than the amount shorted.

While those shorts are usually savvy traders, it is unlikely that they knew in advance that Chinese banks would prevent their clients from engaging in activities involving crypto trading or mining.

More importantly, these bearish positions were built while MicroStrategy was buying $500 million in Bitcoin after a successful senior secured note private offer. To make things worse, Michael Saylor’s business intelligence firm announced the intention to raise another $1 billion by selling stocks to buy Bitcoin.

Let’s take a look at how these courageous shorts fared.

Bitfinex margin shorts (blue) vs. Bitcoin price in USD (orange). Source: TradingView

On June 6, shorts increased from 1,380 to 6,700 at an average price of $36,150. Three days later, another 12,180 shorts were added when Bitcoin was trading at $37,050. Lastly, between June 14 and 15, shorts increased 6,000 to a 25,000 peak while Bitcoin averaged $40,100.

By looking at the Bitcoin prices when those short position increases took place, it is reasonable to assume that the 23,500 contract increase (green circles) had an average price of $37,625.

Related: Traders search for bearish signals after Bitcoin futures enter backwardation

Traders closed positions before BTC crashed bel$32,000

These short positions were steadily closed over the past three days when Bitcoin was already trading below $37,000. However, 17,000 short contracts had already been closed by the time the price plunged below $33,500. Therefore, it is implausible that the average price was below $34,500.

No one would complain about gaining 8%, shorting the market to generate a $73 million profit. However, it is essential to note that on June 16, when Bitcoin reached $40,400, these shorts were underwater by $65 million.

This analysis shows how even highly professional traders can go deep underwater. There’s no way to know if this trade would have been profitable had the crackdown on China not aggravated Bitcoin price or if MicroStrategy managed to raise the $1 billion before the price drop.

If anyone still believes in market manipulation, at least there’s comfort in knowing that pro traders can face drastic losses as well. However, unlike us mortals, whales have deep pockets and patience to withhold even the most rigorous thunderstorms.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.