- The US Treasury reminded crypto companies of their growing responsibility to not enable ransomware payments, and to sanction evaders.
- Ransomware payments have been on the rise this year as cryptocurrencies make payments by companies held hostage hard to trace.
- “We need partners in the private sector to help prevent this illicit activity,” the US Treasury said.
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Crypto companies have a growing responsibility to help prevent ransomware payments and sanction evaders, the Treasury said in a statement on Friday.
Ransomware payments have surged in 2021 as cyber criminals take company data hostage and demand payment in the form of cryptocurrencies to unlock it. This makes payments both harder to trace and easier to make for companies looking to get their data back quickly.
Suspected ransomware payments hit $590 million in the first six months of the year, well above the $416 million paid in all of 2020, according to the Treasury department.
A ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline led to temporary gas shortages in the southeast earlier this year after the oil and gas company’s pipeline was shutdown for days. Colonial paid the ransomware attackers in cryptocurrency to remedy the situation.
“The virtual currency industry, including technology companies, exchangers, administrators, miners, wallet providers, and users, plays an increasingly critical role in preventing sanctioned persons from exploiting virtual currencies to evade sanctions and undermine U.S. foreign policy and national security interests,” the Treasury said in a statement.
This is the Treasury department’s first overt outreach to the crypto industry to help in preventing US sanction evaders and criminal activity that is enabled by cryptocurrencies, such as ransomware payments.
“Treasury is helping to stop ransomware attacks by making it difficult for criminals to profit from their crimes, but we need partners in the private sector to help prevent this illicit activity,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.