FBI Launches Virtual Assets Unit

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has announced the creation of a Virtual Assets Unit (VAU) to provide analysis, support and training to America’s law enforcement and intelligence communities. 

In a statement released Tuesday, the FBI described the new unit as “a nerve center for the FBI’s virtual currency programs where intelligence, technology, and operational support will flow to other divisions.” 

The unit is staffed by virtual currency experts and “cross-divisional resources” who work in a task force set to integrate intelligence and operations across the FBI. Its mission is to assist the FBI in tracking the movement of illicit funds, attributing cyber-crimes to criminal actors and disrupting illegal activity.

“Virtual currency is used to facilitate nearly every type of online criminal activity, including ransomware attacks, child exploitation, and furthering the activities of hostile nation states,” stated the FBI.

“Over the past several months, the Criminal Investigative and the Cyber Divisions developed the VAU as part of the FBI’s strategic plan to address the growing need for virtual asset expertise in the law enforcement and intelligence communities.”

The VAU became operational on February 7 2022 and is led by Criminal Investigative Division’s Financial Crimes Section.  

“The FBI’s new Virtual Assets Unit is the result of collaboration, hard work, and strategic vision from FBI employees who came together to establish a virtual currency center of excellence in the FBI,” said BrianTurner, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch.

“The FBI has a long history of using virtual currency to track criminals profiting from ransomware, soliciting murders-for-hire, and raising funds for terrorist organizations. The VAU will integrate experts across the organization to leverage the outstanding work being done every day.”

Ryan Spanier, vice president of innovation at Kudelski Security, described the VAU’s parturition as “a great sign.”

“This announcement, along with President Biden’s executive order on digital assets, is further evidence that the US government understands that digital currency is now a significant part of the global financial system,” said Spanier. 

“Although illicit activity conducted via blockchains is an extremely small percentage of all transaction activity, it overshadows all the benefits that blockchains and DeFi offers.”

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