Illicit funds gained from the $35 million Atomic Wallet hack are on the move again, with sanctioned Russian-based crypto exchange Garantex reportedly becoming the latest to come in contact with the hacked crypto.
On June 13, blockchain security and compliance firm Elliptic updated the situation regarding the stolen Atomic Wallet funds. It alleges that the North Korean hacking collective, the Lazarus Group — which is believes is behind the attack — has used sanctioned Russian-based crypto exchange Garantex to launder the loot.
In a Twitter post, the firm said there had been a significant and successful cross-community effort between Elliptic and many exchange partners to freeze the stolen crypto. However, Lazarus has now found other means to trade their assets for Bitcoin (BTC).
After a significant and successful cross-community effort between @elliptic, many of our exchange partners and friends to freeze stolen @AtomicWallet funds, Lazarus have now turned to OFAC-sanctioned Exchange, Garantex, to trade their assets for BTC… pic.twitter.com/5Lk9DeGjr8
— Elliptic Investigations (@Elliptic_Inv) June 12, 2023
The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Garantex and the Russian Hydra dark web marketplace in April 2022.
Garantex was founded in late 2019 and originally registered in Estonia before moving the majority of its operations to Moscow, the Treasury Department noted at the time.
“Analysis of known Garantex transactions shows that over $100 million in transactions are associated with illicit actors and darknet markets,” it added.
Earlier this month, Cointelegraph reported that the ill-gotten gains were being channeled through the Sinbad.io mixer, a service frequently used by the Lazarus Group.
Elliptic added that the funds withdrawn from Garantex by the hackers continue to be obfuscated through the Sinbad.io mixer.
The Treasury Department also sanctioned Blender.io (the former iteration of Sinbad.io) in May 2022, warning that the service was being used by North Korea to “support its malicious cyber activities and money-laundering of stolen virtual currency.”
On June 3, a number of Atomic Wallet user accounts were compromised, resulting in losses of up to $35 million in digital assets.
Five days later, Atomic stated that it had engaged blockchain security and analyst company Chainalysis as the leading incident investigator. Cointelegraph reached out to Chainalysis for an update on the investigation but a spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on the Atomic Wallet case.
The notorious North Korean hacking collective has been linked to several major crypto exploits in the past year, including the Harmony Bridge hack and the Ronin Bridge hack.