Sep 21, 2021 - Economy & Business

Treasury sanctions cryptocurrency exchange over ransomware transactions

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during a congressional hearing in June 2021.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during a congressional hearing in June. Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of the Treasury announced Tuesday it will sanction cryptocurrency exchange SUEX for allegedly facilitating financial transactions for multiple ransomware actors.

Why it matters: The sanctions, the first against a cryptocurrency exchange platform, are part of the Biden administration's crackdown on ransomware in response to several high-profile cyberattacks this year.

  • Digital currency exchanges allow people to trade cryptocurrencies or digital currencies for other assets.
  • The sanctions announced Tuesday will make it harder for SUEX to do business with U.S. entities.

By the numbers: The Treasury said that over 40% of SUEX’s known transactions have been associated with illicit actors, though it stressed that most virtual currency activity is legal.

  • It said SUEX facilitated transactions involving illicit proceeds from at least eight different types of ransomware.

What they're saying: "Virtual currency exchanges such as SUEX are critical to the profitability of ransomware attacks, which help fund additional cybercriminal activity," the Treasury said.

  • "Ransomware attacks are increasing in scale, sophistication, and frequency, victimizing governments, individuals, and private companies around the world."

The big picture: Ransomware payments in 2020 reached over $400 million, more than four times their level in 2019, according to the department.

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