Crypto exchange Suex sanctioned over ransomware links

Czech Republic-based cryptocurrency exchange Suex has been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department over allegations it facilitated transactions related to ransomware attacks.

The department has added the exchange to its specially designated nationals (SDNs) list, putting it in the same category as suspected terrorists and drug traffickers.

This marks the first time the US government has sanctioned a crypto exchange.

US residents and citizens are now forbidden to do business with Suex and could face fines or prison as a result.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale Adeyemo alleged in a press call ahead of the announcement that Suex handled transactions from at least eight ransomware variants, and that up to 40 per cent of Suex’s transaction volume was associated with addresses linked to criminal activity.

Blockchain analyst firm Chainalysis claimed Suex has received over $160 million from ransomware actors, scammers, and darknet market operators in Bitcoin alone.

Chainalysis alleged the exchange handled payments related to the Ryuk, Conti, and Maze ransomware attacks, though the US Treasury Department did not name any specific attacks in its statement.

The news comes after The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the Biden administration is set to crackdown on cryptocurrency due to its role in facilitating ransomware attacks.

The total value of ransomware payments was over $400 million in 2020, four times that of 2019 according to the US treasury.

The Treasury highlighted that most cryptocurrency transactions are legal, but alleged Suex facilitated crime “for their own illicit gains.”

The news comes during a year where ransomware has heavily impacted US national infrastructure; in May, a ransomware attack shut down the entire network of one of the largest fuel pipe operators in the US, Colonial Pipeline.

In June, chief executive of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Lindy Cameron said that ransomware is the key threat facing the UK and urged the public and businesses to take it seriously.

“Ransomware and cyber-attacks are victimising businesses large and small across America and are a direct threat to our economy,” said Treasury secretary Janet Yellen. “We will continue to crack down on malicious actors.

“As cyber criminals use increasingly sophisticated methods and technology, we are committed to using the full range of measures, to include sanctions and regulatory tools, to disrupt, deter and prevent ransomware attacks.”

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