The US cracks down on the cryptocurrency mixer
On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced it was imposing sanctions on Blender.io, a cryptocurrency mixer that erases the traces of transactions made through blockchains.
According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the US Treasury Department’s agency responsible for enforcing US financial sanctions internationally, Blender.io is accused of aiding North Korea by “supporting its cyber activities, malicious activities and money laundering in stolen virtual currency.
Specifically, the cryptocurrency mixer is accused of allowing the North Korean hacker group Lazarus to escape with part of the $620 million stolen during the Ronin sidechain hack last March.
This follows an investigation already launched by the US Treasury 2 weeks ago in which it added 3 addresses to its SList of Specially Designated Citizens and Blocked Persons (SDN list), the list is also held by OFAC.
From the press release issued by the US Treasury on this case, we see that the latter is expressed in the affirmative, so that we are no longer talking about simple suspicions:
” […] The US Department of the Treasury OFAC has sanctioned Blender.io, a cryptocurrency mixer used by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to support its malicious activities. […]. On March 23, the Lazarus Group, a state-sponsored cyber hacking group in North Korea, carried out the largest $620 million cryptocurrency theft to date. »
Specifically, following the sanctions imposed by OFAC, Blender.io will no longer be able to interact with US funds or even transact with US companies or US citizens.
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The Problem of Cryptocurrency Mixers
To date, this is the first time that a cryptocurrency mixer has been sanctioned due to such allegations. However, this is not surprising, because it is this tool that hackers very often use in their operations.
Like Blender.io, Tornado Cash is currently the most used cryptocurrency mixer, its name comes up a lot during various hacks going on in the blockchain ecosystem.
Since funds passing through the blockchain are easy to trace, mixers allow funds deposited on their platform to be mixed with each other. Theoretically, the funds are then redistributed to different wallets, and there is no way to know where they originally came from.
How Blender.io works
According to an OFAC investigation launched last month, Blender.io may also have facilitated money laundering for malicious Russian hacker groups including Conti (Ryuk), Trickbot, Sodinoboki (REvil) and Grandcrab.
According to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, dialogue is preferable to re-sanctions:
“The United States remains committed to diplomatic relations with the DPRK and encourages the DPRK to engage in dialogue. At the same time, we will continue to fight against the illegal cyber activities of the DPRK, as well as violations of UN Security Council resolutions. »
These are the second sanctions imposed by the United States at the international level in the cryptocurrency sector in recent times. Indeed, in late April, the Treasury Department added mining giant BitFinex and a dozen of its subsidiaries to its list of “special purpose citizens.”
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Source: US Department of the Treasury.
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