US will reportedly impose crypto sanctions amid ransomware attacks

The Treasury Department will target specific cryptocurrency exchanges and traders.

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Igor Bonifacic
September 17, 2021 12:50 PM

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration plans to implement new measures to make it more difficult for hackers to profit from ransomware attacks using cryptocurrencies. As early as next week, the Treasury Department will reportedly impose sanctions and guidance designed to discourage organizations from using digital currencies to pay for ransoms.

Per The Journal, among the measures the agency is considering are fines and other penalties aimed at businesses that cooperate with hackers. Later in the year, the Treasury Department is also expected to implement new anti-money laundering and terror-financing regulation to limit further the use of cryptocurrencies as a payment method for ransoms and other illegal activity.

The incoming sanctions will reportedly single out specific traders and exchanges instead of casting a wide net and attempting to disrupt the entire crypto ecosystem. In addition to harming organizations that may have facilitated ransomware payments in the past, the hope is that sanctions will scare most cryptocurrency platforms from processing those types of transactions in the future.

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“An action of this kind would be an aggressive, proactive approach to going after those who facilitate ransomware payments,” Ari Redbord, a former Treasury Department official, told The Journal.

The measures would be the latest attempt by the Biden administration to tackle the issue of ransomware attacks following a year in which they’ve increased in frequency and severity. After the Colonial Pipeline attack led to fuel shortages in parts of the US, the president signed an executive order that called for, among other things, improved information sharing between federal agencies. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security laid out mandatory rules that call on pipeline operators to appoint cybersecurity coordinators and report incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

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US will reportedly impose crypto sanctions amid ransomware attacks