US sanctions North Korean cryptocurrency mixer Blender
The sanctions, imposed by the United States Treasury Department, are the first ever on a digital asset mixing service.
The United States announced Friday it is sanctioning North Korean digital currency mixing firm Blender.io, which the country allegedly uses to launder stolen virtual currency and support cybercrimes.
The sanctions, imposed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, are the first ever on a digital asset mixing service. The new sanctions also point to the growing use of digital assets to perpetuate illegal acts by state actors and individuals.
Mixing services combine various assets, including potentially illegally obtained funds and legitimately obtained funds, so that illegal actors can obscure the origin of stolen funds.
Blender is accused of helping Lazarus Group, a sanctioned North Korean cyberhacking group, to carry out a $620m digital currency heist in March, the biggest of its kind to date.
Treasury says Blender helped process more than $20.5m in digital currency. Lazarus Group was designated in September 2019 as a state-sponsored cybercriminal group.
Four wallets, or virtual currency addresses, tied to Lazarus Group were also added to Treasury’s list of sanctioned entities.
“The United States remains committed to seeking diplomacy with the DPRK and calls on the DPRK to engage in dialogue,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in statement. “At the same time, we will continue to address the DPRK’s unlawful cyber activities, as well as violations of UN Security Council resolutions.”
DPRK is an acronym for the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.