Analytics Firm Elliptic Says RenBridge Was Used to Help Launder $540M of Illicit Crypto Funds

Around a third of the sum laundered with the help of the cross-chain bridge is believed to be proceeds from ransomware attacks by North Korean hackers, according to Elliptic.

AccessTimeIconAug 10, 2022 at 12:41 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 3:56 p.m. UTC
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RenBridge, a cross-chain channel used to funnel money between different blockchains, was used to facilitate the laundering of at least $540 million in crime-related crypto funds, blockchain analytics firm Elliptic said on Wednesday.

The sum includes over $153 million in ransomware proceeds and crypto believed to have been stolen by North Korean hackers, the firm said.

Cross-chain bridges offer an unregulated alternative to using centralized platforms like crypto exchanges for transferring funds between blockchains, and are vulnerable to cyber attacks. Earlier this year, two separate attacks on the Ronin and Nomad bridges saw a total of around $825 million stolen by hackers. Another blockchain analytics firm, Chainalysis, estimates nearly $2 billion may have been stolen from attacks on cross-chain bridges just this year.

"We believe that the use of RenBridge was part of the laundering process," Tom Robinson, co-founder and chief scientist at Elliptic, told CoinDesk in an emailed statement, adding that the obfuscation and layering achieved by passing the assets through RenBridge aided in concealing the illicit origin of the funds.

RenBridge facilitated the transfer of far more funds, but Elliptic said only $540 million of those transactions were crime related.

More than $2.4 million from the hack of the Nomad bridge in August has already been laundered with the help of RenBridge, according to Elliptic.

UPDATE (Aug. 10, 2022, 16:54 UTC): Updates headline, and adds more information including statement from Elliptic clarifying that RenBridge was used in the process of laundering stolen funds.

UPDATE (Aug. 16, 2022, 14:27 UTC): Updates headline to clarify RenBridge was used as part of the laundering process.


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Sandali Handagama

Sandali Handagama is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for policy and regulations, EMEA. She does not own any crypto.

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