US Treasury sanctions crypto exchange over role in ransomware attacks

The Suex exchange allegedly facilitated financial transactions for ransomware actors

The US Department of the Treasury has imposed sanctions on virtual currency exchange Suex for its alleged role in facilitating financial transactions for ransomware actors.

The Treasury stated that Suex has facilitated transactions involving illicit proceeds from at least eight ransomware variants, adding that over 40% of its transaction history is associated with illicit actors. 

As a result of the sanctions, which are the first designations against a virtual currency exchange, Suex is blocked from accessing all US property, and US citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with it. 

The Treasury added that virtual currency exchanges are critical to the profitability of ransomware attacks, which it said help fund additional cybercriminal activity. It will also continue to disrupt and hold accountable these kinds of entities to reduce the incentive for cyber criminals to continue to conduct these attacks.

“Ransomware and cyber attacks are victimizing businesses large and small across America and are a direct threat to our economy. We will continue to crack down on malicious actors,” said Treasury secretary Janet L. Yellen.

“As cyber criminals use increasingly sophisticated methods and technology, we are committed to using the full range of measures, to include sanctions and regulatory tools, to disrupt, deter, and prevent ransomware attacks.”

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The move comes as part of the US’ counter-ransomware strategy, which the Treasury said emphasises the need for a collaborative approach to counter ransomware attacks, including partnership between the public and private sector and close relationships with international partners.

This comes after an Iowa based-cooperative, New Cooperative, was hit by a $5.9 million ransom this week after being hit by the BlackMatter group. The group has obtained financial documents, network information, social security numbers, and source code for the company’s farmer technology platform. The attackers are demanding a $5.9 million ransom payment by 25 September.

In June, the Department of Justice (DoJ) recovered 63.7 Bitcoins ($2.3 million) paid out by Colonial Pipeline to the DarkSide ransomware gang. The FBI said it was able to track multiple transfers of Bitcoin and identify them, as they had been transferred to a specific address to which the FBI had a “private key” to access it.

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