The U.S. sanctioned a cryptocurrency swap service on Friday, part of a larger effort to crack down on North Korea’s practice of using hackers to steal money for the state. The sanctions, leveled against the company Blender.io, mark the first time that the U.S. Treasury Department has taken action against what is known in the cryptocurrency industry as a mixer, a for-profit service that allows users to move crypto between accounts without leaving a clear transaction record. Treasury said in a news release that North Korea has used Blender.io to launder more than $20.5 million of cryptocurrency that it allegedly stole from the online game Axie Infinity in March. Hackers stole more than $600 million worth of cryptocurrency from the game’s owner. Blender.io did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Its site was inaccessible Friday. Most cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and ethereum, log every transaction on a public ledger service called a blockchain. That allows analysts to trace funds as they’re sent from one account to another. Cryptocurrency mixers, also called tumblers, serve as intermediaries to obscure that trail by taking in users’ funds, then sending those customers’ money back to them, minus a fee, using different accounts. Mixer services are not illegal, but experts say they have become a crucial tool for cybercriminals looking to hide their tracks. One of the largest ethereum mixing services, Tornado Cash, announced in April that it had hired Chainalysis, a major blockchain analytics firm that does work for the U.S. government, to better comply with government financial regulations. While many cou . . . read the full article here.