Ransomware attacks in the US have been on the rise since late 2020, but it is booming especially in 2021. This year, hackers have extensively hacked several US companies. One such attack on pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline resulted in temporary fuel supply shortages on the US East Coast. The hackers also targeted an Iowa-based agriculture company, raising fears of disruption to grain harvesting in the Midwest. Schools, insurance companies and police departments have also suffered from these attacks.
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In response, the US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is charged with protecting the financial system from illegal access, released a Financial Trends analysis. FinCEN published the report on Friday, October 15, 2021.
The report analyzed the significant increase in ransomware payments in the first six months of 2021 and the difference relative to the previous year.
Ransomware Attack in America
US Treasury Secretary Janet L. “Ransomware and cyberattacks are preying on businesses large and small across America and are a direct threat to our economy,” Yellen said recently. According to the report, a FinCEN analysis of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed during the first half of 2021 indicates that it is a growing threat to the US.
Between 1 January and 30 June 2021, 635 SARs were filed and 458 transactions were reported. This was 30% higher than the total SAR of 487 filed for the whole of 2020. Suspected ransomware payments totaled $590 million during the first half of 2021, up from the $416 million reported for the whole of 2020.
Source: FinCEN Financial Trend Analysis
The US Treasury Department said the average amount of ransomware transactions reported per month in 2021 was $102.3 million. FinCEN identified bitcoin (BTC) as the most common payment method in reported transactions. About $5.2 billion in outgoing BTC payments linked to the top 10 types over the past three years. It is noted that the USD figures quoted in this analysis are based on the value of BTC at the time of the transaction.
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If the trend continues, hackers could earn more from ransomware this year than they did in the past ten years.
US government response
The US government is working to prevent hackers attacks. The Biden administration has made the government’s cybersecurity response a top priority after a series of attacks this year threatened US energy and food supplies.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced the launch of a national cryptocurrency enforcement team to go after exchanges expediting crime-related transactions such as ransomware demands.
Related Reading | US recovers millions in bitcoin for Pipeline ransomware
In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration was preparing “a number of actions, including sanctions, to make it harder for hackers to access the digital currency.”
Also last month, the Treasury’s Department of Foreign Asset Control approved crypto exchange SUEX OTC, SRO (SUEX) to facilitate financial transactions for ransomware actors. The crackdown was the department’s first such move against virtual currency exchange over ransomware activity.
With the release of the report, the Treasury Department issued virtual currency guidance. The guidance states, “The virtual currency industry, including technology companies, exchangers, administrators, miners, wallet providers and users, may prohibit sanctioned individuals from exploiting virtual currencies to evade sanctions and undermine US foreign policy and national security.” plays an important role in interests.”
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