Treasury sanctions cryptocurrency exchange to fight ransomware attacks

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On Tuesday, The Treasury Department issued its first sanctions against a cryptocurrency exchange as part of a series of actions targeting the use of digital currencies in ransomware attacks.

The sanctions will block all trades involving the cryptocurrency exchange Suex and US entities. According to the Treasury Department, around 40 percent of all Suex transactions involve illegal activities. The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is also issuing a new advisory warning that it may issue new sanctions against cryptocurrency exchanges, cyber insurance companies, and other financial institutions that facilitate ransomware payments.

In a statement Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said: “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.”

In a statement Yellen said: “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 new measures are the Biden administration’s most significant move to curb the wave of ransomware attacks that have only become more frequent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, one of the US’s largest fuel delivery pipelines, Colonial Pipeline, was taken offline after a cyberattack that requested a ransom. Colonial paid more than $4 million to turn the system back on. That payment was partially recovered by US authorities.

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