As of next week, the Treasury Department plans to impose sanctions on a cryptocurrency market entity, the two sources said on condition of anonymity. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also plans to issue updated guidance to companies on how to avoid breaking US law when paying ransomware to cybercriminals.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on impending Treasury actions.
Spokesmen for the Treasury Department and the White House National Security Council declined to comment.
It is the most direct effort to date by the Biden administration to attack the funding source of the ransomware gangs that block American computers and demand payment in a cryptocurrency that is difficult to trace. Administration officials lamented how multi-million dollar payments to ransomware groups based in Eastern Europe and Russia allowed hackers to invest in new tools for further attacks.
In June, President Joe Biden urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to crack down on cybercriminals operating from Russia. But FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said this week that there was “no indication” Putin had done so.
The ransomware threat gained national attention in May when suspected Russian cybercriminals forced Colonial Pipeline, which carries around 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast, to shut down for days. The incident resulted in shortages at gas stations on the east coast, and Colonial Pipeline paid hackers $ 4.4 million to recover company data.