The US Treasury has sanctioned Czech crypto exchange SUEX for their role in facilitating ransomware attacks. The treasury is acting on the alleged transactions that involve illicit proceeds from at least eight ransomware variants.
In a statement from the official press release, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen outlined the Treasury’s role in advancing the government's counter-ransomeware strategy:
“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. As cyber criminals 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.”
The role of virtual currency was highlighted by the official release as a principal means of facilitating ransomware payments and tied to money laundering activities. In the case of the sanctions placed on SUEX, the exchange is blocked from accessing any US property, and US citizens are prohibited from transacting with SUEX..
The sanctions placed on SUEX are the first of their kind - as the first sanction against a cryptocurrency exchange, involving collaboration with the FBI.
With several large ransomware attacks affecting the US over the past few months, including the Colonial Pipeline attack, it is evident that the US government has targeted crypto exchanges in a multi-pronged approach along with the FBI. At the time the US Justice Department announced that they had retrieved 80% of the ransom paid in Bitcoin, with the DOJ and FBI working together to retrieve this.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an updated advisory to highlight the sanctions risks associated with ransomware payments :
“OFAC has imposed, and will continue to impose, sanctions on these actors and others who materially assist, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support for these activities”
Despite the association of cryptocurrency with ransomware attacks, it has been argued that blockchain technology can actually be used to demobilize ransomware attacks. UCD assistant professor Dr. Nima Afraz has proposed a model that demonstrates how blockchain can facilitate a collaborative cyberattack defense mechanism. Additionally, the research indicated how most attacks are possible only because a single centralized copy of the victims’ data is stored in their servers.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.