File photo: Cryptocurrency representations Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Ripple and Litecoin are located on a PC motherboard in this figure taken on June 29, 2021. Reuters / DADLE BIC / Illustration / FILE PHOTO
September 21, 2021
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tuesday’s Biden administration unveiled sanctions on cryptocurrency exchanges for their alleged role in enabling illicit payments from ransomware attacks, officials said, a growing threat as part of a broader bid.
The Treasury has accused Suex OTC, SRO, of promoting illegally profitable transactions of at least eight ransomware variants, and the first such move against crypto exchanges over ransomware activity. ..
“Exchanges like SouX are critical to an attacker’s ability to profit from ransomware attackers,” Finance Deputy Secretary Wally Ademo previewed the announcement with a reporter in a phone call. “Today’s action signals our intention to use these attacks to expose and destroy illegal infrastructure.”
Hackers use ransomware to shut down systems that control everything from hospital billing to manufacturing. They stop only after receiving a large amount of payment, which is usually paid in cryptocurrencies.
According to the Treasury, the scale, sophistication and scope of the attacks are expanding. Cyber’s deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger told reporters that ransomware payments exceeded $400 million in 2020, more than quadruple in 2019.
Officials also said the government has updated its ban guidance to encourage victims of ransomware attacks to share information with law enforcement agencies.
The Treasury said an analysis of known SuEx transactions showed that more than 40% of them were related to illegal actors. While some exchanges are being misused by malicious individuals, other exchanges such as Suex “promote illegal activities for their own illicit interests,” the agency said. Added in release.
The sanctions included in a 2015 executive order for cybercriminals blocked Suex’s access to all US assets and barred Americans from doing business with the company.
According to Refinitiv’s Eikon, Suex OTC is a private company based in the Czech Republic.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, Additional Reporting by Joseph Maine, edited by Richard Pullin)