Research paper
May 31, 2023

North Korea Launders Dirty Crypto through Clouds. Wait, What?

North Korea Launders Dirty Crypto through Clouds. Wait, What?

North Korean hackers use stolen crypto to mine more crypto via cloud services, and turn their ill-gotten “dirty” crypto into brand new, shiny, and untainted coins!

Sounds like the perfect money laundering trick, right?

Cybersecurity firm Mandiant has revealed this worrying news in their latest report about APT43, a state-sponsored North Korean Group that uses cybercrime to fund espionage operations, finance state goals and their own existence!

All of that, through crypto laundering and the cloud washing machine.

Here’s how they do it!

Intheir investigation report, Mandiant reveals that APT43 targets cryptocurrency and cryptocurrency-related services “to sustain its own operations”, opposedly to other North Korean groups such as APT38, which are “likely primarily tasked to bring in funds for the regime”.

To do so, they must first steal unsuspecting victims’ funds, they do so primarly through bogus dAPPs, thanks to Android app store’s scammer paradise!

Mandiant also discovered that:

they “most likely target Chinese users looking for cryptocurrency loans”, and “probably harvested credentials.”

Now, to wipe away any taint on their dirty crypto, they found out an ingenious way to cover their tracks: cloud mining and hash rental!

Source: Mandiant

Do not let the term “cloud” misleads you!

In web3, cloud services are an entirely different thing than in web2.

As Mandiant reports,

For a fee, these hash rental and cloud mining services provide hash power, which is used to mine cryptocurrency to a wallet selected by the buyer without any blockchain-based association to the buyer’s original payments.”

Source: Mandiant


Cloud mining is considered as an alternative to traditional cryptocurrency mining.

Instead of buying and maintaining their own mining hardware and software, miners can purchase a certain amount of “hash power” from the service provider. The provider then uses this hash power to mine cryptocurrencies and rewards the miners with incentives based on the amount of hashing power they obtain.

As you don’t need to be tech savvy, nor run or maintain any hardware or software, it’s no wonder it appears as the perfect getaway route for APT43!

And makes hash rental as tempting!


Hash rental is a service that allows individuals or organizations to rent hash power to mine cryptocurrencies without having to purchase and maintain their own mining hardware.

Although hash rental and cloud mining are related concepts, they refer to slightly different things in the context of cryptocurrency mining: hash rental involves renting hash power from other individuals or organizations, while cloud mining involves renting processing resources from a service provider who runs a mining farm.

These money laundering machines were used over and over by APT43, “[..] several payment methods were used for infrastructure and hardware purchases including PayPal, American Express cards, and Bitcoin likely derived from previous operations.”-relayed Mandian.

It seems the only thing that could stop the money laundering activity of these groups that “suggests a widespread mandate to self-fund and an expectation to sustain themselves without additional resourcing,” is other nefarious actors!

Cloud mining firms are infamously known as a haven for scammers.

Between your local Ponzi mining firms, the plentiful exit scams, and widespread fake cloud mining firms that pretend to be mining, APT43 and similar groups could one day find themselves facing even more shameless and ruthless criminals than them.

And hopefully losing it all to them.

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