US Treasury to announce crypto sanctions to mitigate ransomware attacks

  • The Biden administration is looking to introduce new actions to mitigate ransomware attacks.
  • With a focus on payments, the Treasury Department may ban crypto for ransom payments.
  • New anti-money laundering and terrorist-finance rules will curb the use of digital assets in illicit activities later this year.

The Biden administration is preparing to make a move that will make it harder for cyber attackers to use cryptocurrencies to profit from ransomware attacks. The Treasury Department in the United States will impose sanctions soon, according to the Wall Street Journal.

US aims to curb the use of crypto in illicit activities

The US government looks to deter hackers from using digital assets as a form of payment that has supported illicit activities and a rising national security threat. 

The Treasury Department could impose new sanctions that ban cryptocurrencies to be used for ransomware payments as soon as this week. The agency would also issue new guidance to businesses on the risks that are associated with facilitating ransomware payments. Fines and penalties would also be included in the new recommendations. 

The Biden administration has presented it as a major attempt to put the parties involved in facilitating cryptocurrency transactions on the backfoot as part of ransomware attacks in recent years. Officials have noted that ransomware attacks have increased over this year and could pose a major risk to critical infrastructure, including hospitals and banks.

The upcoming sanctions aim to target specific targets, rather than banning the entire cryptocurrency infrastructure where ransomware transactions take place. 

According to analysts familiar with the matter, the Treasury would need to target cryptocurrency wallets that receive ransom transactions, as well as digital asset trading platforms that exchange coins to conceal the culprits and elude the authorities. 

Earlier this year, the US Colonial Pipeline was hacked and the attackers demanded 63.7 Bitcoins worth around $2.3 million at the time. While the high-profile attack was traced back to criminal groups in Russia, the Biden administration went full force to tackle the growing ransomware attack issues as hacker payment demands have increased.

Ari Redbord, a former Treasury security official, stated that these sanctions would most likely target illicit actors rather than the cryptocurrency technology itself. He believes that digital assets are simply the payment mechanism behind the transactions.

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