U.S. Treasury sanctions cryptocurrency tumbler Blender, the first sanction of its kind

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that they had sanctioned the North Korean cryptocurrency tumbler Blender.io. This was the first U.S. government sanction levied against a cryptocurrency tumbling service. Blender was used to launder more than $20.5 million of the $620 million stolen in March from the blockchain used by the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity. The U.S. government has alleged that the North Korean state-sponsored cybercrime group Lazarus was behind the hack.

The U.S. began sanctioning various wallet addresses belonging to the hackers in mid-April, though have faced obstacles given that it is trivial for the hackers to create new wallets. The use of cryptocurrency tumblers (also called "mixers") has also stymied the government's attempts to limit the DPRK's access to the ill-gotten funds. Blender is not the primary tumbler that Lazarus has been using—that would be Tornado Cash, which they have used to tumble more than $213 million from the hack. Tornado has taken perfunctory steps to comply with sanctions, but nothing that would meaningfully impact Lazarus' ability to use the service.