Friday, September 17, 2021

The Senate will investigate the role of cryptocurrencies in cybercrime

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Coming less than a week after the Senate Judiciary Committee said it would hold its own ransomware hearing, the dual probes speak to the heightened attention crypto is facing from U.S. lawmakers. On Tuesday, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he would investigate how “cryptocurrency can embolden cybercriminals” and what the federal government can do to fight back.

Peters’ probe is notable because of its focus on cryptocurrency, instead of ransomware more generally. Lawmakers seldom train their investigative sights on crypto specifically. But the recent tsunami of ransomware attacks against everything from pipelines to meatpackers has changed that.

Related: Biden Accuses Chinese State Actors of Ransomware, Cryptojacking Attacks

Attacks were up 150% in 2020 with $412 million in ransoms paid, Peters said, adding that an ongoing July attack is holding 200 corporate networks hostage for $70 million.

“The increased use of cryptocurrencies as the preferred method of payment in ransomware attacks shows that cybercriminals believe they can commit attacks without being held accountable,” Peters said in a statement.

Even so, Peters’ investigation appears to be leaving room for a different crypto narrative.

Related: Anatomy of Ransomware Attack: Chat Support, a Discount and a Surcharge for Bitcoin

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The investigation will examine current oversight efforts and regulations related to virtual currencies. It will also make recommendations into how lawmakers and federal agencies can ensure all Americans can safely benefit from access to cryptocurrencies, and that they are not providing an incentive for criminal organizations and foreign adversaries to continue assaulting American networks and communities nationally.

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