The startup which helps facilitate private cryptocurrency transactions was added to the list as investigations showed that it was used by the North Korea-based hacking group, Lazarus who stole $620 million from the Ronin Network.
As detailed by the US Treasury Department, the hackers have used Blender.io to conceal and launder as much as $20.5 million of the illicit proceeds. The Treasury Department believes that the pressure from the United Nations as well as the United States has turned North Korea to start exploring other avenues to fund its nuclear program, and the activities of the Lazarus Group are one manifestation.
“Today, for the first time ever, Treasury is sanctioning a virtual currency mixer,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “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 exploit of Axie Infinity’s Ronin Bridge was considered the biggest hack in the decentralized finance world to date and concerted efforts have been deployed by all relevant stakeholders to help the blockchain protocol recover the funds. While Binance recently helped in retrieving $5.8 million which was laundered through the platform, the activities of services like Blender.io come off like a freedom pass for the cybercriminals.
Besides being the go-to platform for the Lazarus Group, the Treasury Department also believes Blender is a viable tool being adopted by other cybercrime rings including Trickbot, Conti, Ryuk, Sodinokibi, and Gandcrab, all connected to Russia.
With the sanctions in place, all of the platform’s properties must be reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and among many other restrictions, Americans are banned from doing business with the startup.
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