- $5.2 billion in transactions are linked to Bitcoin ransomware payments says the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
- If ransomware-related SARs persist, then 2021 could see more crypto-related ransom attacks than the whole of the last decade combined.
The US Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN), is linking a staggering $5.2 billion to Bitcoin (BTC) ransomware payments. This was concluded from data filed between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2021. Notably, the network links this BTC transaction volume to the top 10 most common ransomware attacks. Additionally, the analysis showed 2,184 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and 177 convertible virtual currency (CVC).
According to the FinCEN analysis, ransomware-related SARs have been rising over the decade. The first shot up in 2016, and thereafter recorded the highest numbers in 2020 and 2021. The report reads;
FinCEN identified $590 million in ransomware-related SARs, a 42 percent increase compared to a total of $416 million for all of 2020,
Additionally, the mean of the total monthly suspected ransomware transactions was $66.4 million and the median was $45 million.
Ransomware attacks and crypto-related payments
The bureau warned that should the trend persist, then 2021 SARs are projected to surpass those filed in the previous decade combined. Such a scenario “would represent a continuing trend of substantial increases in reported year-over-year ransomware activity.”
Notably, Bitcoin was the most common mode of payment for these attacks. However, privacy-centric coins, such as Monero, were associated with money laundering activities. Monero, for instance, utilizes several technologies to promote user privacy including stealth addresses and a transaction splitting mechanism.
Many governments, including the US, have become wary of ransomware attacks, more so due to their links with cryptocurrencies. The Colonial Pipeline attack, which took place in May this year, was one of the most notable of such attacks. Perpetrators demanded 75 Bitcoin (about $5 million at the time), which the Feds later claimed to have recovered most of it.
Sectors such as the US’ largest meat supplier, JBS, among other 200 US firms, also became victims of similar crimes. Eastern Europe has also become increasingly plagued by the same, a report from Blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis highlights. The region sends more cryptocurrencies to the Darknet markets than any other region.
Curbing crypto-related crimes
These events, as the Biden administration noted earlier this year, point to the possible susceptibility of other big institutions. These include financial institutions, government records, and healthcare systems. The administration, therefore, pledged sanctions alongside strict actions against any group of the companies involved with such. Last month, the US Treasury Department announced the first sanctions targeting Russian cryptocurrency exchange Suex due to alleged money laundering.
Furthermore, crypto exchanges such as Binance, have taken up new hires with experience in anti-money laundering (AML) practices. US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), alongside lawmakers, also says it is placing effort against Bitcoin and other crypto-related criminal activities.