Illicit cryptocurrency activity reached an all-time high of $20.1 billion in 2022, increasing from $18 billion the previous year in large part due to escalating U.S. sanctions targeting digital currencies, according to a report released Thursday by researchers at Chainalysis. Last year saw the U.S. government more aggressively sanction cryptocurrency-related entities and individuals, and nearly 44% of the $20 billion in transactions classified as illicit by Chainalysis can be attributed to transactions linked to sanctioned entities. In classifying illicit cryptocurrency activity, Chainalysis included transactions tied to child sexual abuse materials, human trafficking, ransomware, stolen funds, terrorism financing, scams, cybercriminal administrators, dark net markets and sanctions. “This was the year that [Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control] kind of started to come out pretty hard with their sanctioning of services,” said Kim Grauer, head of research at Chainalysis. “And we’re seeing that in our numbers this year.” Among the 10 cryptocurrency-related groups sanctioned last year by the U.S. government were Tornado Cash, a mixing service that the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned in response to the North Korean hacking group Lazarus’s use of the technology to launder more than half a billion in stolen cryptocurrency.
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