US sanctions Russian crypto exchange accused of laundering ransomware payments

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To deter future cyber extortion attacks, the Treasury Department on Sept. 21 sanctioned a Russian-owned cryptocurrency exchange accused of  helping launder ransomware payments, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Five things to know: 

1. The sanction on SUEX OTC is the first time the Treasury Department has blacklisted a digital currency platform and supports the Biden administration's efforts to thwart the increasing problem of ransomware attacks in the U.S. 

2. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the sanctioning of SUEX should be seen as a warning to other bad actors in the digital currency marketplace, according to the report, and that more sanctions should be expected. 

"We will continue to crack down on malicious actors," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellenstated, according to the Journal

3. While officials said more sanctions are coming, the administration pointed out that only a small portion of digital currency transactions are used for illicit purposes and that an updated guidance is meant to motivate cybersecurity improvements among businesses to be more transparent when they experience an attack. 

4. Officials are exploring sanctions for three types of cryptocurrency services that criminals have shown preferences for: "nested" exchanges, such as SUEX, that set up accounts on major cryptocurrency exchanges and then help facilitate transactions; peer-to-peer platforms that allow direct, confidential transactions between parties; and "mixers," whose transaction services make tracking exchanges more difficult. 

5. The Treasury Department chose SUEX for the first sanction because intelligence analysis showed 40 percent of its transactions were with groups known to participate in illicit activities, according to the report. The crypto exchange also helped process payments linked to at least eight ransomware variants, senior U.S. officials told the Journal.

 

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