FBI Targets Crypto Over Ransomware Crimes

With ransomware on the rise, the FBI is looking at cryptocurrency as the main way these cybercrimes are facilitated, Bloomberg reported Wednesday (Feb. 16).

Per the report, crypto has been used by “cyber crooks” that have taken on digital innovations in such a quick fashion that the government can’t keep up. Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI cyber division, said crypto is the “primary currency” and main way that extortion payments happen.

“It’s the only game in town,” he said, adding that while blockchain had some opportunities, the ability to pay with crypto and then script it into a tumbler through either an extortion payment or theft had been a “huge problem.”

The report notes that criminals are particularly fond of bitcoin due to its “effectively unhackable” stance, and that it can be transferred instantly in large amounts without touching the banking system — and it has gotten results.

Last May, a Russia-linked group called DarkSide hacked Colonial Pipeline and was able to get a ransom paid of almost $5 million in cryptocurrency. Though, in that case, US officials said they’d been able to recover 63.7 of the 75 bitcoin involved in that transaction.

PYMNTS wrote that the ransomware payments related to cryptocurrency, which often consisted of releasing malware to encrypt a victim’s info — usually a major corporation — had reached at least $602 million as of 2021. The actual number was likely higher.

See also: Ransomware Reaches Beyond Money With More Sinister Goals

“In fact, despite these numbers, anecdotal evidence, plus the fact that ransomware revenue in the first half of 2021 exceeded that of the first half of 2020, suggests to us that 2021 will eventually be revealed to have been an even bigger year for ransomware.” ,” the Chainalysis report indicated.

This kind of crime is especially insidious because of the ready-made malware tools cybercriminals can buy without needing much else to work with.

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