The US Is Eyeing Sanctions on Crypto Payments to Fight Ransomware Attacks

Divya  |  Sep 18, 2021

The US Treasury Department is looking to introduce sanctions on crypto payments to counter the growing number of ransomware attacks. According to The Wall Street Journal, the sanctions could come into effect as early as next week.

US to Place Sanctions on Crypto Payments to Deter Ransomware Attacks

Biden administration is preparing to sanction cryptocurrency exchanges that participate in moving funds to hackers. The move is part of a broader effort to contain ransomware attacks, which have targeted some prominent facilities in the past few months. 

“There is a concerted effort to identify tools that can disrupt the flow of money to ransomware operators,” an anonymous US official told WSJ. “This is a continuation of our effort to go after criminal enterprises and their money.” 

As reported earlier, the US has been hit by a string of ransomware attacks this year, leading to temporary disruption of crucial infrastructure. Most hackers behind these attacks have demanded crypto payments to surrender control of security systems.

In May, Colonial Pipeline had to shut down its operations -- resulting in a national fuel crisis -- after criminal hacking group DarkSide launched a crippling attack on its systems. The group received $4.3 million worth of Bitcoin ransom, a portion of which was later recovered by federal investigators.

Sanctions Represent the First “proactive” Step to Curb Attacks

The latest attempt to arrest the growth of ransomware attacks has been hailed by several people. On Friday, former Justice Department prosecutor Brandon van Grack took to Twitter to share his support for the initiative.

“The sanctions could significantly impair the ability to make payments and further complicate the decisionmaking calculus for companies,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Megan Stifel, a global policy officer at the Global Cyber Alliances, indicated that a lot of organizations “want to do the right thing” but lack the guidance for it. She added that the US should pursue its partners to follow its lead or its “effort will be challenged.”

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