US Set to Sanction Cryptocurrency Firms Involved in Ransomware

The US government is reportedly set to announce new measures, including sanctions to deter cryptocurrency businesses from getting involved in laundering and facilitating ransomware payments.

People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that the Treasury could roll out the new sanctions as early as this week. They’ll reportedly target cryptocurrency exchanges and traders who either knowingly or unwittingly enable cybercrime transactions.

As part of the measures, the government will also issue new guidance explaining the risks involved in facilitating ransomware payments, including significant fines and other penalties.

The move would seem to be in keeping with the direction of travel over the past few months, which has seen the Biden administration prioritize ransomware as a national security threat.

Following the Colonial Pipeline attack in early May, the White House issued an open letter to CEOs to persuade them to take the threat more seriously. Reports have also revealed plans to elevate attacks to the same priority level as terrorism.

Then there was the creation of a DoJ Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force, which scored a significant victory by helping to seize more than half of the funds paid to the Colonial Pipeline attackers.

Biden’s executive order on cybersecurity will also help drive improvements designed to mitigate the impact of ransomware across the federal government, including the roll-out of multi-factor authentication (MFA) and zero trust principles. It will also make it easier for organizations across public and private sectors to share information following incidents.

The US has also led efforts at a G7 and NATO level to denounce Russia for harboring cybercrime groups that engage in ransomware. The White House has repeatedly claimed it reserves the right to go after these groups unilaterally if no action is taken to contain them.

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