The U.S. Treasury on Monday sanctioned a virtual currency mixer that it says was used by a North Korean state-sponsored hacking organization to launder stolen funds. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
Aug. 9 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has sanctioned virtual currency mixer Tornado Cash on accusations of being used to launder billions of dollars of virtual currency, including funds stolen by North Korean hackers.
The U.S. Treasury announced the sanctions against the popular virtual currency mixer on Monday, stating it has been used to launder more than $7 billion for cybercriminals since its founding in 2019.
Of the cryptocurrency the United States said it laundered includes hundreds of millions stolen by the Lazarus Group, a North Korean state-sponsored hacking organization that was responsible for the largest known currency heist of some $620 million in Etherum reported on March 29.
"Despite public assurances otherwise, Tornado Cash has repeatedly failed to impose effective controls designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyberactors on a regular basis and without basic measures to address its risks," Brian Nelson, under secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial intelligence, said in a statement.
Virtual currency mixers receive a variety of transactions and mix them together before transmitting them to their individual recipients in order to increase privacy. Such services are popular among cyber criminals in order to launder their ill-gotten proceeds.
The Treasury said Tornado Cash was used by the North Korean hackers to launder more than $455 million of the money they stole in late March as well as about $96 million of the $100 million they stole from the Horizon Bridge crypto transfer service heist in late June and at least $7.8 million they stole early this month from cryptocurrency bridge provider Nomad.
The sanctions announced Monday prohibit U.S. persons from doing business with Tornado Cash.
The cryptocurrency mixer was blacklisted as the United States takes aim at the virtual currency systems that cybercriminals use to hid their illicit dealings.
In early May, the Treasury sanctioned virtual currency mixer Blender.io, which has also been used by the North Korean hackers to launder their stolen funds.
In April, the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Treasury issued an alert warning that North Korean cyberattacks on cryptocurrency and blockchain platforms were escalating.
"The United States will not hesitate to use it authorities against malicious cyberactors to expose, disrupt and promote accountability for perpetrators and enablers of criminal activities," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.