Surprise ransomware payments were reported for the first six months of this year, more than the $416 million that went to the full of 2020, US authorities said on Friday as Washington put the cryptocurrency industry on alert about its role in combating ransomware attacks.
The U.S Treasury Department said that the average amount of reported ransomware transactions per month in 2021 was $102.3 million, with REvil Sodinokibi, Conti, DarkSide, Avaddon, and Phobos the most prevalent ransomware strains reported.
House Speaker Joe Biden has made the government's cybersecurity response a top priority for the most senior levels of his administration following a series of attacks this year that threatened to destabilize U.S. energy and food supplies.
Do Treasury and its members of the crypto community plan to stop the use of crypto currencies in the payment of ransomware demands?
Its new guidance said the virtual currency industry plays an increasingly critical role in preventing those blacklisted from exploiting virtual currencies to evade sanctions.
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 in a statement.
The new guidance also advised virtual currency exchanges to use geolocation tools to block access from countries under U.S sanctions. Hackers use ransomware to take down systems that control everything from hospitals billing to manufacturing. They stop receiving hefty payments only after receiving hefty digital payments, typically in Bitcoin.
This year, gangs hit numerous U.S companies with large scale hacks. One such attack on pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline led to temporary fuel supply shortages at the U.S East Coast.
Hackers also targeted an Iowa-based agricultural company, sparking fears of disruptions to grain harvest in the Midwest. O over its alleged role in enabling illegal payments from ransomware attacks, officials said, in the Treasury's first such move against a virtual currency exchange over ransomware activity.