Blender.io will no longer be available to crypto users in the United States.
The US Department of the Treasury has launched an investigation into cryptocurrency mixing provider Blender.io.
Customers in the United States will no longer be able to utilise the service, which allows users to add an extra layer of secrecy to their bitcoin transactions by “mixing” their tokens.
According to Brian Nelson, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, this is the first time a virtual currency mixer has been sanctioned.
What prompted the change?
Blender.io allegedly assisted cybercriminals linked to North Korea in stealing roughly $620 million from game company Axie Infinity’s Ethereum sidechain Ronin Bridge in March, according to the US Treasury.
Blender.io was allegedly used to process $20.5 million in stolen currencies, according to the government department.
“Virtual currency mixers that enable criminals pose a harm to US national security interests,” a Treasury Department spokeswoman stated. “Treasury will continue to investigate the use of mixers for criminal purposes and consider the spectrum of authorities Treasury has to address illicit financing threats in the virtual currency ecosystem,” says the statement.
According to the department’s statement, the Ronin attack wasn’t the first time Blender.io was involved in illegal activities.
Since its inception in 2017, Blender.io has assisted in the laundering of over $500 million in Bitcoin, as well as transactions with Russia-linked ransomware gangs such as Trickbot, Conti, Ryuk, Sodinokibi, and Gandcrab.
The Blender.io sanctions were not the only measure announced by the US Treasury to combat cybercrime.
The department also included four new bitcoin wallet addresses related to the Lazarus Group of North Korea, which was widely accused for the deadly WannaCry ransomware attack on the NHS in 2017 and was sanctioned by the US government in 2019.
The decision comes amid a broader crackdown on crypto criminality linked to Russia.
So far, 25,000 Coinbase addresses linked to Russian people or businesses have been blacklisted.
Coinbase’s Chief Legal Officer, Paul Grewal, claimed in a blog post that the accounts had been involved in “illicit behaviour,” and that while the business does collaborate with the US government on such matters, these accounts were discovered through the company’s own proactive investigations.