U.S. Treasury Imposes Sanctions On North Korean Crypto Mixer Blender

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced sanctions on a cryptocurrency mixer called Blender.io, which happens to be used by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to launch cyber attacks. 

The OFAC revealed in a statement released Friday that North Korean hackers had used Blender to launder digital assets as well as to carry out state-sponsored cyber attacks.

In March, Lazarus Group, a DPRK state-sponsored cyber hacking group, carried out the largest virtual currency heist to date, worth almost $620 million, from a blockchain project linked to the online game Axie Infinity, and Blender, according to the statement, was used in processing over $20.5 million of the illicit proceeds.

"Under the pressure of robust U.S. and UN sanctions, the DPRK has resorted to illicit activities, including cyber-enabled heists from cryptocurrency exchanges and financial institutions, to generate revenue for its unlawful weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs," it said. 

Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said, “Today, for the first time ever, Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer. Virtual currency mixers that assist illicit transactions pose a threat to U.S. national security interests. We are taking action against illicit financial activity by the DPRK and will not allow state-sponsored thievery and its money-laundering enablers to go unanswered.”

The latest development comes two weeks after the FBI issued a statement saying the cyber actors APT38, also known as Lazarus Group, associated with the DPRK, were behind the Ronin Bridge attack.

The Lazarus Group had drained approximately $300 million worth of crypto in 2020 from the Singapore-based exchange KuCoin. Research by Chainalysis had earlier revealed that North Korean cybercriminals stole nearly $400 million worth of crypto in 2021.
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Photo: Raisin Raisin www.raisin.co.uk/./flickr.com

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