An exchange was sanctioned for allowing transactions with BTC derived from illicit acts.
These measures are part of a set of actions against ransomware attacks.
The United States has officially approved taking sanctioning measures against entities or individuals related to ransomware attacks. Among the first sanctioned is the Russian-based exchange Suex, which had its assets under US jurisdiction frozen. This was because evidence of an alleged relationship between this exchange house and money laundering through bitcoin and cryptocurrencies from cyber attacks was presented.
The sanctions range from the confiscation of assets that are within the jurisdiction of the United States and allied countries, to the prohibition that any person or company can do business with Suex, as they could be penalized.
The statement was made official on September 21 on the official website of the United States Department of the Treasury. However, CriptoNoticias had already reported on September 17 that, according to the Wall street journal, the US government would be preparing sanctions against attacks by ransomware.
The Treasury Department, in its statement, presented evidence alleging that 40% of the transactions carried out by Suex were funds derived from illicit activities.
According to the document, the sanctions fall within Executive Order 13,694, signed in the administration of former President Barack Obama, and extended by Donald Trump and now by Joe Biden. The document creates a system of sanctions against cybercrime activities, which include attacks by ransomware. Recently it became known that this type of hacking will be considered as terrorism, and judged as such.
In Suex’s case, this is an exchange that currently operates in Russia and the Czech Republic. This belongs to the OTC exchange class (Over the counter or over the counter), which allows the trading of high amounts of bitcoins without affecting the exchange rate. They achieve this by direct transactions that do not enter the exchange market. This type of exchange is usually used by large corporations or even governments, as is the case in El Salvador.
According to data from Chainalysis, the Suex exchange allowed, since 2018, the trade of more than USD 160 million on its platform, coming from different types of scams such as ransomware, markets of the darknet, and even mixers. It should be noted that, in the latter, BTCs are not necessarily linked to illegal activities.
Does Bitcoin motivate these attacks? America says yes
In the document, they highlight that cyberattacks have quadrupled their scope in relation to the data collected between 2019 and 2020, since the ransoms paid for attacks by ransomware reached USD 400 million.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, in an open letter addressed to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, published at the end of July this year, communicated that bitcoin could be a motivator for these types of attacks and that coordinated measures should be taken to regulate it.
The measures and sanctions may have a justification since, according to a report collected by CriptoNoticias, the losses for ransomwareIn the first half of 2021 alone, they reached more than 60 thousand bitcoins. Nevertheless, directly brand cryptocurrencies as means that allow crime due to not having strict regulations, does not seem to have justification.