U.S. Fights Ransomware With Crypto Tracing, $10 Million Bounties

The Biden administration intends to crack down on the use of cryptocurrencies in ransomware attacks through more rigorous tracing of proceeds paid to hackers behind the disabling of companies, government agencies and organizations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. strategy will also involve bounties of as much as $10 million for information that leads authorities to cyberattackers, a senior administration official said.

The official, in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, said the White House had formed a task force and that the administration’s strategy included efforts to disrupt ransomware operations, confront the use of cryptocurrencies in the assaults and work with allies to encourage other nations not to harbor attackers.

The Treasury and State Departments will be working together to foster norms for crytocurrencies and foster improved restrictions on money-laundering. The Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network plans to convene other government agencies along with financial institutions and third-party providers to discuss the ransomware threat.

Some members of Congress who took part in a briefing with Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger on Wednesday said they were less than impressed. One lawmaker, who was granted anonymity to discuss the briefing, said there was no discussion of a new government entity to lead the counterattack against ransomware operatives and that much of the discussion focused on defense -- of businesses and critical infrastructure.

Neuberger pointed out that there was no cybersecurity standard for private industry and that Congress would have to establish one for that to happen, the people added.

The official who briefed reporters did not share any updates on the REvil ransomware gang, which suddenly vanished from the dark web on Tuesday. The outfit, linked to Russia, has been accused of a series of recent assaults, on giant meat supplier JBS SA, which eventually paid an $11 million ransom.

The disappearance came just days after President Joe Biden said he had pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to act against hackers in his country blamed for recent ransomware attacks.

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