The Biden administration is preparing an array of actions, including sanctions [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled, alternative source], to make it harder for hackers to use digital currency to profit from ransomware attacks, WSJ reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. From the report: The government hopes to choke off access to a form of payment that has supported a booming criminal industry and a rising national security threat. The Treasury Department plans to impose the sanctions as soon as next week, the people said, and will issue fresh guidance to businesses on the risks associated with facilitating ransomware payments, including fines and other penalties. Later this year, expected new anti-money-laundering and terror-finance rules will seek to limit the use of cryptocurrency as a payment mechanism in ransomware attacks and other illicit activities.
The actions collectively would represent the most significant attempt yet by the Biden administration to undercut the digital finance ecosystem of traders, exchanges and other elements that cybersecurity experts say has allowed debilitating ransomware attacks to flourish in recent years. Senior officials have said ransomware attacks this year have grown more severe than ever and represent a serious threat to critical infrastructure, including power operators, hospitals and banks. The Treasury Department declined to comment and the people familiar with the matter declined to specify the targets of sanctions. But to effectively disrupt illicit crypto transactions, Treasury would need to target the digital wallets that receive ransom transactions, the crypto platforms that help exchange one set of blockchain coins for another to obscure the culprits and the people that own or manage those operations, according to analysts who specialize in such transactions.
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