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North Korea-Linked Crypto Mixer Gets in US Crosshairs

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Wed, 29/11/2023 - 18:29
North Korea-Linked Crypto Mixer Gets in US Crosshairs
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The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has taken decisive action against the Bitcoin mixer Sinbad.io, sanctioning it on Wednesday for its alleged role in facilitating North Korean money laundering activities. 

Accompanying this sanction, the Sinbad website now bears a seizure notice. Elliptic Research has identified two Bitcoin addresses directly associated with Sinbad in the OFAC's designation while also noting the existence of thousands more potentially linked to the mixer.

Sinbad has been implicated in several major cyber thefts, including the high-profile Harmony’s Horizon bridge and Axie Infinity bridge hacks in 2022.

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The Treasury's investigation links Sinbad to the Lazarus Group, a notorious state-sponsored cyber hacking group from North Korea. Sinbad has not only been used in these specific hacks but also in laundering proceeds from other major thefts such as Stake.com, CoinEx, FTX, and BadgerDAO.

Sinbad's ties to Blender.io

Elliptic's early 2023 research suggested that Sinbad could be a rebranded version of Blender.io, the first-ever cryptocurrency mixer to face OFAC sanctions in May 2022. Blender.io was penalized for laundering millions on behalf of North Korea's Lazarus Group. The similarities between Sinbad and Blender are striking, with evidence suggesting the same individuals or group may be operating both platforms. 

This includes matching transaction patterns, service structures, language use, and even website designs, all pointing to a strong connection between the two mixers.

Rising crypto crime in North Korea 

The proliferation of crypto crime in North Korea has been a growing concern, with the US taking proactive measures to combat these illicit activities. The sanctioning of Sinbad is part of a broader strategy to disrupt the financial mechanisms used by groups like the Lazarus Group. By targeting these crypto mixers, the US aims to curb the laundering of stolen funds, which are often used to finance state-sponsored activities, including cyber warfare and nuclear program development.

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