Since the end of 2020, ransomware attacks in the United States have been on the rise, but they will be particularly prominent in 2021. This year, hackers carried out large-scale hacking attacks on many American companies. One such attack on the pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline caused a temporary shortage of fuel supplies on the East Coast of the United States. The hackers also targeted an agricultural company in Iowa, sparking concerns about the interruption of grain harvesting in the Midwest. Schools, insurance companies and police departments have also suffered these attacks.
In response, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is responsible for protecting the financial system from illegal use, issued a Financial trend analysis. FinCEN released the report on Friday, October 15, 2021.
The report analyzes the substantial increase in ransomware payments in the first six months of 2021 and the relative difference from last year.
Ransomware attacks in the U.S.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen recently pointed out that “ransomware and cyber attacks are harming American businesses, large and small, and pose a direct threat to our economy.” According to the report, FinCEN The analysis of the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) submitted in the first half of 2021 shows that it poses a growing threat to the United States
Between January 1, 2021 and June 30, 635 SARs were submitted and 458 transactions were reported. This is 30% more than the total number of 487 SARs submitted in 2020. The total value of alleged ransomware payments in the first half of 2021 was US$590 million, exceeding the US$416 million reported for the full year of 2020.
Source: FinCEN Financial Trend Analysis
The U.S. Treasury Department stated that the average amount of ransomware transactions reported every month in 2021 was US$102.3 million. FinCEN identified Bitcoin (BTC) as the most common payment method for reporting transactions. In the past three years, BTC expenditures related to the top 10 variants were approximately $5.2 billion. It pointed out that the dollar figures quoted in this analysis are based on the value of BTC at the time of the transaction.
BTC trading at over $60.7K | Source: BTCUSD on TradingView.com
If the trend keeps up, hackers may make more money from ransomware this year than in the past ten years combined.
U.S. government’s response
The US government has been working hard to combat attacks from hackers. After a series of attacks that threatened the US energy and food supply this year, the Biden administration has made the government’s cybersecurity response its top priority.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Justice announced the establishment of a national cryptocurrency enforcement team to track exchanges that accelerate crime-related transactions, such as ransomware needs.
Related Reading | U.S. recovers millions of payments in Bitcoin for pipeline ransomware
September, Wall Street Journal Report The Biden administration “is preparing a series of actions, including sanctions, to make it more difficult for hackers to use digital currencies.”
Also last month, the Foreign Assets Control Office of the Ministry of Finance Sanctioned The cryptocurrency exchanges SUEX OTC, SRO (SUEX) are used to facilitate financial transactions of ransomware participants. This action is the first such move by the department against a virtual currency exchange for ransomware activity.
Coinciding with the release of the report, the Ministry of Finance released Virtual currency guidanceThe guide stated that “the virtual currency industry, including technology companies, exchanges, administrators, miners, wallet providers, and users, has played a greater role in preventing sanctioned persons from using virtual currencies to evade sanctions and undermine U.S. foreign policy and national security. An increasingly important role. Benefits.”
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