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U.S. blocks Americans from using cryptocurrency services Tornado Cash

The so-called “mixer” was used to wash digital assets to North Korea, officials say

FILE – In this Monday, May 15, 2017, file photo, employees watch electronic boards monitoring possible ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul.

The Treasury Department issued sanctions Monday against a cryptocurrency company which has permitted North Korean hackers and others to transfer billions of dollars of digital tokens stolen from virtual thefts.

Tornado Cash, the service Tornado Cash Tornado Cash, operates as commonly referred to as mixing, and it pool digital assets to hide their ownership. Since its inception in the year 2019, the service has helped to wash around $7 billion worth of digital assets, as per the Treasury Department. In addition to the website of the service and the 45 associated crypto wallets on the list of sanctions the administration makes it illegal for anyone American to do business with them.

undersecretary for security and financial intelligence in an official statement.

U.S. hasn’t prevented N. Korean gang from using crypto to fund their gang.

In the past few months, hackers used Tornado Cash to wash crypto funds that were stolen during a string of hacks that have been widely reported, Treasury said.

The Lazarus Group, a cybercriminal group which international investigators have claimed is the main source of funding to North Korea’s weapons program North Korean weapons program, made use of the service to handle the more than $455million which they have stolen in April, in the largest cryptocurrency theft to date. Hackers re-routed around $96million in their June attacks at the Harmony blockchain bridge and , at a minimum, another $7.8 millions in the hack of the Nomad bridge that occurred last week.

The sanctions are an official Biden administration’s second action against mixers. In May, the administration banned the program known as Blender that was also used by the Lazarus Group also employed. The mixer is not believed to be in operation since the time an official from the Treasury official told an interview with the press on Monday.

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The service is in the process of forming a record year for cybercriminals, as per the July report of Blockchain analytics company Chainalysis. The report found that illicit cryptocurrency wallets that sent $871 million to mixers during the first quarter of the year. This represents 23 percent of the money mixers processed in the period, a rise from 12 percent in 2021.

Tornado Cash is handling an even greater proportion of money that is not legitimate in the past two months according to a different study by TRM Labs, another blockchain data company. The firm found that 41 percent of the funds that were processed by the mixer in July and June were linked to hacks and other thefts.

“Tornado Cash is a favorite money laundering tool for North Korean cybercriminals,” the firm said in an article published on Monday blog article in which it noted that it was the Lazarus Group has used the program in 10 of their most recent cryptocurrency thefts.

Treasury’s focus on Tornado Cash could be a warning to the crypto industry overall regarding the dangers of trading through mixers, a Treasury official of the administration told reporters and suggested that further sanctions against similar services might be coming in the near future.

The major crypto platforms have hired hundreds of employees, including some who have experience in law enforcement or national security In recent years, they have been able to enhance their protection to guard against illegal activities, as the industry strives to change its image as a sanctuary for terrorists and criminals.

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