The Treasury Department imposed initial sanctions on a cryptocurrency exchange on Tuesday as part of a series of measures against the use of digital currencies in ransomware attacks.
Tuesday’s sanctions will block all deals in which the Suex cryptocurrency exchange and US companies are involved. According to the Ministry of Finance, around 40 percent of all Suex transactions are illegal activities. The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is also issuing a new warning that it may impose new sanctions on cryptocurrency exchanges, cyber insurance companies, and other financial institutions that facilitate ransomware payments.
“We will continue to crack down on malicious actors”
“Ransomware and cyber-attacks are victimizing businesses large and small across America and posing a direct threat to our economy,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue to crack down on malicious actors.”
These new measures are the most important step taken by the Biden government to stem the wave of ransomware attacks that have only increased in frequency over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, one of the largest US fuel pipelines, Colonial Pipeline, went offline following a cyber attack that demanded a ransom. Colonial paid more than $ 4 million to turn the system back on. This payment was partially recovered by the US authorities.
Last year, the Treasury Department issued two warning notices warning companies not to pay cyber criminals for ransom. The ministry reiterated that stance on Tuesday, saying it would update its ransomware policy and make a clear statement against ransomware payments.
“As cyber criminals use increasingly sophisticated methods and technologies, we commit to taking all measures, including sanctions and regulatory tools, to disrupt, deter and prevent ransomware attacks,” Yellen said in a statement on Tuesday.