US Treasury says $590M paid for ransomware in first half of 2021

Ransomware actors are criminals enabled by gaps in compliance regimes across virtual currency ecosystem, official says

Victims paid a total of $590 million to their attackers for ransomware in the first six months of this year, according to a report released by the US Treasury Department on Friday.

The value of ransomware-related suspicious activity reports (SARs) exceeds the value reported for the entirety of 2020, which was $416 million, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) reported.

“Ransomware is an increasing threat to the US financial sector, businesses, and the public,” said the report titled “Financial Trend Analysis: Ransomware Trends in Bank Secrecy Act Data Between January 2021 and June 2021”.

There were 635 SARs filed and 458 transactions reported between in first six month of 2021 — up 30% from the total of 487 SARs filed for the entire 2020 calendar year, it said.

One of the recent incidents of ransomware came in May 2021 when hackers attacked Colonial Pipeline to extort millions of dollars, which disrupted crude oil carried to the US eastern states, it added.

FinCEN said it identified 68 ransomware variants, most commonly were REvil/Sodinokibi,Conti, DarkSide, Avaddon, and Phobos.

The Treasury Department said in a statement as ransomware attacks have increased in recent years, so has the number of ransomware payments, which have been typically paid through virtual currency.

“Ransomware actors are criminals who are enabled by gaps in compliance regimes across the global virtual currency ecosystem,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in the statement.

The Treasury said its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also issued a brochure to promote sanctions compliance in the virtual currency industry, and warned that failure to comply would have same civil and criminal penalties as they do to traditional financial institutions.

“The virtual currency industry plays an increasingly critical role in preventing sanctioned persons from exploiting virtual currencies,” the statement said.


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