Vitalik Buterin endorses one of North Korea’s favorite coin mixers, Railgun

Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin has sent more than $300,000 to coin mixer Railgun which has also been used by North Korea’s Lazarus Group.

Buterin has been using the service for months, — albeit with smaller sums of money — and today he took a definitive stand in support of it and other coin anonymizing services.

In addition to sending 100 ETH through Railgun, he posted a defense of his actions, claiming “Privacy Is Normal” — a phrase borrowed from Zcash. Buterin defended Railgun in particular, claiming that its novel use of zero-knowledge proofs allows users to demonstrate the lawful origin of funds without doxxing transaction histories.

Railgun uses smart contracts to prove membership within ‘custom association sets’ to satisfy certain regulations.

Buterin has advocated for private transactions for years and has spoken positively about Zcash, Monero, privacy-preserving rollups, stealth addresses, and the cryptographic privacy of zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive arguments of knowledge (ZK-SNARKs).

Read more: US Treasury sanctions OTC traders for aiding Lazarus hackers

Coin mixers like Railgun attract bad actors

Financial opacity also attracts bad actors. One of the first use cases for cryptocurrency was facilitating illegal e-commerce via Silk Road. Similarly, Railgun’s privacy has attracted nefarious operators. These include Lazarus Group, the most notorious blockchain hacking group closely tied to North Korea and China.

Lazarus Group has been sanctioned by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control since September 13, 2019 and support for the group is illegal. Lazarus is a frequent user of Railgun.

Nevertheless, crypto’s wealthiest billionaire has unapologetically endorsed one of the tools that Lazarus Group uses. In his words, “privacy is normal,” and anyway, Railgun “makes it much harder for bad actors to join the pool.” 

Much harder for bad actors. How reassuring.

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