US Treasury Department to Clampdown on Exchanges Laundering Ransomware

23 September 2021 | Updated: 23 September 2021

The US Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that it has launched a new set of actions targeted at cryptocurrency exchanges “responsible for laundering ransoms.” It termed it the whole-of-government action to curb ransomware attacks. The organization added entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)’s list of Specially Designated Nationals. The official report from the Treasury Department stated that:

“As part of the whole-of-government effort to counter ransomware, the US Department of the Treasury today announced a set of actions focused on disrupting criminal networks and virtual currency exchanges responsible for laundering ransoms.”

The measure also intends to bolster cyber security in the private sector and boost ransomware payment reporting to US government authorities, either the Treasury or law enforcement agencies.

The report revealed that ransomware payments in 2020 surpassed $400 million, a fourfold increase from the figure recorded in 2019. The Treasury Department noted that: “Some virtual currency exchanges are a critical element of this ecosystem, as virtual currency is the principal means of facilitating ransomware payments and associated money laundering activities.” It also detailed that:

“While most virtual currency activity is licit, virtual currencies can be used for illicit activity through peer-to-peer exchangers, mixers, and exchanges. This includes the facilitation of sanctions evasion, ransomware schemes, and other cybercrimes.”

One of the immediate actions taken per the new measure was the sanctioning of crypto exchange Suex for aiding “financial transactions for ransomware actors.” According to the Treasury, Suex is the first of many targeted “for laundering cyber ransoms.”

The report added that the properties of the exchange “that are subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”

Comments from US Treasury Department Secretary Janet Yellen

Commenting on the development, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that: “Ransomware and cyber-attacks are victimizing businesses large and small across America and are a direct threat to our economy. We will continue to crack down on malicious actors.” Yellen added that:

“As cybercriminals use increasingly sophisticated methods and technology, we are committed to using the full range of measures, to include sanctions and regulatory tools, to disrupt, deter, and prevent ransomware attacks.”

 

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Azeez Mustapha

Azeez Mustapha is a trading professional, currency analyst, signals strategist, and funds manager with over ten years of experience within the financial field. As a blogger and finance author, he helps investors understand complex financial concepts, improve their investing skills, and learn how to manage their money.