WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) – The United States on Friday announced that it will buy North Korean digital currency mixing firm Blender.
The restrictions, imposed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control, are a first on a digital asset mixing service. The new restrictions also point to the increasing use of digital assets by state actors and individuals to perpetuate illegal acts.
Mixing services combine various assets, including potentially illegally obtained funds and legitimately obtained funds, so that illegal actors can obscure the origins of the stolen funds.
Blender is accused of helping the Lazarus Group, a sanctioned North Korean cyber-hacking group, to steal $620 million worth of digital currency in March, the largest of its kind ever.
The Treasury says Blender helped process more than $20.5 million in digital currency. Lazarus Group was named As a state sponsored cyber criminal group in September 2019.
Four wallets, or virtual currency addresses associated with the Lazarus Group, were also added to the Treasury’s list of approved 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 a statement. “At the same time, we will continue to address the DPRK’s illegal cyber activities as well as violations of UN Security Council resolutions.”
The DPRK is an acronym for the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.
Brian Nelson, the Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said virtual currency mixers that aid in illegal transactions “pose a threat to US national security interests.”
“We are taking action against illegal financial activity by the DPRK and will not allow the state-sponsored theft and its money-laundering supporters to go unanswered,” he said.
Last month, the US imposed The first set of penalties against a cryptocurrency mining firm in relation to Russia’s War on the War. Digital currency firm Bitriver AG and 10 of its subsidiaries were included in a package of sanctions from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.
Lawmakers and administration officials have expressed concerns about the use of cryptocurrencies to engage in illegal acts.