The U.S. and U.K. governments have “committed and agreed to heighten the focus on illicit use of cryptocurrency and ransomware,” the U.S. Department of Justice announced. According to the FBI, high crypto prices have partially made ransomware “incredibly lucrative for the criminals.”
The Governments Work Together to Combat Illicit Cryptocurrency
U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday that Lisa Monaco, Deputy Attorney General, and representatives from the National Security Division as well as Criminal Division, met with Priti Patel, U.K.’s Home Secretary, in Washington, D.C.
“In their meeting, both governments discussed their close cooperation against numerous threats to their countries’ collective security, including with respect to combating terrorism, cybercrime, and illicit finance,” the DOJ detailed, adding:
Both the home secretary and the deputy attorney general committed and accepted to increase the emphasis on illegal use of crypto and ransomware as well as continue to dialogue regarding emerging national security threats.
US government is working to stop ransomware attacks. In October, Monaco announced the launch of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, a DOJ initiative to tackle and prosecute “criminal misuses of cryptocurrency, particularly crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, and money laundering.”
In the same month, President Joe Biden said that the U.S. will bring together 30 countries to stop “the illicit use of cryptocurrency.”
FBI Says Ransomware Lucrative Due to ‘Valuation of Virtual Currency’
In a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week, Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, noted that high crypto prices are fueling criminal networks and ransomware actors.
This hearing is part of an investigation by Congress into ransomware attacks that cost multimillions of dollars on U.S. businesses this year.
“In the last six months, we have not seen a decrease in the amount of frequency of reporting of ransomware attacks,” Vorndran said, adding:
We attribute that to the simple fact that it’s incredibly lucrative for the criminals. That’s partially due to the valuation of virtual currency, but it’s partially due to the vulnerability of our systems and in our infrastructure.
Global Initiatives lead to arrests and seizures
Recent actions taken by the U.S. Government against ransomware-related actors have been noted. The U.S. Department of the Treasury approved a cryptocurrency exchange in September as part of its whole-of government effort to combat ransomware. Suex was allegedly “responsible for laundering ransoms.”
An additional crypto-exchange was sanctioned early this month. Chatex allegedly facilitated “financial transactions for ransomware actors.” In addition, two alleged ransomware operators — Ukrainian Yaroslav Vasinskyi and Russian Yevgeniy Polyanin — were sanctioned “for their part in perpetuating Sodinokibi/Revil ransomware incidents against the United States.” The DOJ also seized $6.1 million from Polyanin.
National Cyber Director Inglis said last week that Polyanin’s arrest resulted from a collaboration between countries since the arrest occurred when he crossed the border into Poland. “Cyberspace is a borderless terrain, and therefore, as much as they can reach us we can reach them,” he opined, elaborating:
Allies can help us use our jurisdictions in countries such as Poland and Romania in order to arrest these criminals. We also have the ability to bring them to court using the same courts that exist in the West.
In October, a coordinated strike involving Europol, Interpol, and the FBI led to the arrest of two “prolific” ransomware operators allegedly responsible for ransom demands of up to 70 million euros. A total of $1.3 Million worth cryptocurrencies was seized.
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