May 9, 2022
By Anjali Kochhar
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has announced first-of-its-kind 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 last week 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 according to the statement Blender 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.
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson 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 that 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.
About the author
Anjali Kochhar covers cryptocurrency stories in India as well as globally. Having been in the field of media and journalism for over three years now, she has developed a sharp news sense and works hard to present information that goes beyond the obvious. She is an avid reader and loves writing on a wide range of subjects