The Treasury Department punished a Russian cryptocurrency exchange that allegedly helped cybercriminals carry out ransomware attacks.
Some 40% of cryptocurrency transactions handled by Suex were linked to illegal activity, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said in announcing sanctions against it. The exchange allegedly played a role in at least eight ransomware attacks.
“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,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “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 sanctions, the first of their kind imposed by Treasury, mean that all property and interests in property of Suex that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are now blocked. Additionally, Americans are now generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the exchange.
The United States also provided updated guidance on Tuesday about how companies should respond to ransomware attacks, which involve hackers seizing data and threatening to block access to it unless a ransom is paid.
The guidance emphasizes that the U.S. strongly recommends targets of ransomware attacks not to pay out hackers’ extortion demands. It also “strongly encourages victims and related companies to report these incidents to and fully cooperate with law enforcement as soon as possible.”
This year there have been a spate of ransomware attacks, including the attack against Colonial Pipeline in the spring. Hackers believed to be from the DarkSide hacking group demanded some $4.4 million in Bitcoin to restore the pipeline’s operations. The company ended up paying the ransom, and service was incrementally restored.
The FBI then worked to retrieve the stolen funds and recovered 63.7 bitcoins (worth about $2.3 million at the time) from a Bitcoin wallet thought to be controlled by cybercriminals tied to the Russia-based collective — a feat that left some experts stunned and sent the price of Bitcoin downward, given the fear of increased government involvement and control within the crypto sphere.
The price of cryptocurrencies didn’t appear to be too rattled by news of the sanctions on Tuesday. Bitcoin was down 1.6% at $43,000, Ethereum was 1.1% lower, and Ripple was up slightly.
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Original Author: Zachary Halaschak