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US Sanctions Russian Crypto Firm Over Ransomware Payments

  • Richard Marley
  • September 22, 2021
  • 2 minutes read
  • 182
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Suex, a Russian crypto OTC broker, was involved in facilitating ransomware payments and has been sanctioned by the US

OFAC has designated an OTC broker operating in Russia for facilitating transactions that involve proceeds of ransomware payments. 

A new set of measures is designed by the US Treasury to disrupt, deter, and prevent ransomware attacks and calling it a “whole-of-government effort to counter ransomware”.

With ransomware payments reaching $400 billion in 2020 (four times higher than in 2019), the Treasury said that these payments are just a small fraction of economic harm caused by cyber attacks. 

“Some virtual currency exchanges are a critical element of this ecosystem, as virtual currency is the principal means of facilitating ransomware payments and associated money laundering activities.”

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a sanction designation against Suex as a result of facilitating transactions for at least eight ransomware actors. The OTC crypto trader is registered in the Czech Republic and predominantly operates from Russia. According to the Treasury Department, 40% of the platform’s transactions are associated with criminals. 

After the designation, all the property and interests of Suex subject to US jurisdictions are blocked and US citizens are no longer permitted to conduct transactions with them. Although this is the first sanctions designation against a cryptocurrency exchange, the Treasury has warned that similar action will be taken against other entities that are involved in laundering ransom from cyber attacks. 

“Companies that facilitate ransomware payments to cyber actors on behalf of victims, including financial institutions, cyber insurance firms, and companies involved in digital forensics and incident response, not only encourage future ransomware payment demands but also may risk violating OFAC regulations,” the advisory stated.

As part of efforts to discourage cyber ransom payments and extortion demands, OFAC released an updated advisory on potential sanctions for ransomware payment facilitation.

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