Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts its users’ access until a ransom is paid to unlock it. Ransomware variants have been observed for several years and are often an attempt to extort money from victims by displaying an on-screen alert. 37% of global organisations said they were the victim of some form of ransomware attack in 2021, according to the global provider of market intelligence International Data Corporation in their ‘2021 Ransomware Study’.
However, during the past week there has been an escalation in the US Government’s efforts to repress hackers. Anti-money laundering initiatives have resulted in new sanctions against ransomware operators and crypto exchanges, alongside the seizure of $6.1m in funds tied to ransom payments.
A new set of rules have been introduced by the US Department of the Treasury that heavily focus on restraining criminal ransomware, infrastructure, and virtual exchanges to launder the proceeds of ransomware.
Why have ransomware rules changed?
Perhaps the focal point in the urgency for action against hackers came from Ukranian national; Yaroslav Vasinskyi, and a Russian; Yevgeniy Polyanin, who had a part in perpetuating Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware incidents against the United States. A further response was taken against virtual currency exchange; Chatex, via sanctioning, for the facilitation of financial transactions for ransomware criminals.
Upon analysing Chatex’s known transactions, it was discovered that over half were directly traceable to illicit or high-risk activities such as darknet markets, high-risk exchanges, and ransomware. In the instance of a company being tied to such activities, these too can be sanctioned as demonstrated through the action taken against SUEX OTC who had direct ties with Chatex. IZIBITS OU, Chatextech SIA, and Hightrade Finance Ltd, who set up infrastructure for Chatex, enabling Chatex operations, were also sanctioned, and Latvian government authorities have suspended the operations of Chatextech in their country.
If convicted of all counts, the hackers may each be facing a maximum penalty of 115 and 145 years in prison.
Is there any solution for ransomware?
Whether you’re are a virtual currency exchange or an insurance business any association with illicit activities can end in large sanctions and fines. Currently, ransomware payments are reported to have risen to $590m in the first half of 2021, compared to a total of $416m in 2020 and criminals are targeting firms like yours to launder their gains.
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