Home Science & Technology A U.S. cryptocurrency mixer has imposed sanctions for helping North Korea launder...

A U.S. cryptocurrency mixer has imposed sanctions for helping North Korea launder millions

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The U.S. Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on the Blender.io virtual currency mixer, the first time the mixing service has come under economic blockade.

The move is a testament to the government’s continued efforts to prevent money laundering stolen from North Korea’s Lazarus Group. an unprecedented hacking of the Ronin Bridge in late March.

The recent sanctions imposed by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) target 45 bitcoin addresses linked to Blender.io and four new wallets linked to Lazarus Group, an advanced stubborn company with ties to the Korean People’s Democratic Republic (DPRK). ).

“Blender has been used to handle more than $ 20.5 million in illicit proceeds,” the Treasury said. saidadding that it was used by the DPRK to “support malicious cyber activities and money laundering of stolen virtual currency”.

Cryptocurrency mixers are also called glasses– These are privacy-oriented services that allow users to move cryptocurrency assets between accounts without leaving a trace of transactions, hiding their origin.

It is known that mixers like the Blender charge a “dynamic” service fee of 0.6% to 2.5% each time money is transferred to a wallet that is under its control. It is estimated that since its launch in 2017, Blender has transferred bitcoins worth more than $ 500 million.

“Through these services, threat actors can achieve their ultimate goal – to cash in and maintain criminal underground liquidity through the trade in illegal goods and services,” – Intel 471 noted in a report published in November 2021

The hacking of Ronin Bridge resulted in a state-sponsored cyber hacker group stealing $ 540 million from a decentralized protocol that allows users to transfer their crypto between Ethereum and the popular blockchain game Axie Infinity.

April 16 Ministry of Finance in the lock list the address of Ethereum’s wallet to which the stolen digital currency was received, although by then Lazarus Group had managed to launder 18% of the funds withdrawn (about $ 97 million) through centralized exchanges and Ethereum’s mixing service called Tornado Cash.

In the last two weeks, about $ 273.9 million of airtime has been sent to four of the recently sanctioned addresses, according to analyst firm Elliptic, one of those addresses has already transferred $ 37 million through Tornado Cash, leaving behind $ 236 million.

“The transactions included amounts much larger than their previous laundering efforts,” the company said in a statement. said. “Increasing laundering efforts in this way potentially reflects the growing desperation of hackers.”

In addition, the authorization of Blender is proof that “Lazarus Group has moved some of the stolen funds to bitcoin,” – said Elliptic.

It is also said that Blender has helped a number of extortion groups linked to Russia to launder their money, including TrickBot, Conti (formerly Ryuk), Sodinokibi (aka REvil), and Handcrab.

In the midst of all this April 22 cryptocurrency Binance revealed that he managed to return the stolen Axie Infinity funds worth $ 5.8 million, which were distributed to 86 accounts.

Development is a month after the Treasury sanctioned Garantex virtual currency exchange for aiding criminals in laundering more than $ 100 million obtained illegally.

Last year, the agency punished two cryptocurrency exchanges SUEX and CHATEX for facilitating financial transactions for actors in ransomware programs and cash out extortion.

In recent years, North Korea has been involved in a number of cyber-supported thefts from cryptocurrency exchanges and financial institutions as a way circumvent international sanctions and generating revenue from its nuclear weapons program.

Last month, US cybersecurity and intelligence services warned a new set of cyberattacks carried out by the Lazarus group aimed at blockchain companies with fraudulent applications for cryptocurrencies.

“Virtual currency mixers that aid illegal transactions pose a threat to US national security interests,” said Brian E. Nelson, deputy finance minister for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“We are taking action against North Korea’s illegal financial activities and will not allow state-sponsored theft and money laundering to go unanswered.”

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