The White House is reportedly getting ready to roll out measures to combat the use of crypto in ransomware attacks

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Keyboard replaced with ransom-style letters
The hacking group REvil has launched ransomware attacks against hundreds of companies.

  • The US government is preparing measures to make it more difficult for hackers to use crypto to profit from ransomware attacks.
  • The Treasury Department is planning sanctions against specific targets.
  • The actions come after high-profile ransomware attacks this year against Colonial Pipeline and meat packing company JBS.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US government is working on a slate of actions to make it more difficult for hackers to use cryptocurrency to profit from ransomware attacks, with sanctions singling out specific targets due as early as next week, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The Treasury Department plans to impose sanctions against specific targets, rather than blacklist an entire crypto infrastructure where ransomware transactions are suspected of occurring, unnamed sources told the publication. The department also plans to issue new guidance to businesses about risks associated with facilitating ransomware payments, including fines and other penalties.

The moves are the most significant so far by the Biden administration to step in and take some control of the digital finance ecosystem that cybersecurity experts say has fostered an increase in ransomware attacks in recent years, the report said.

Colonial Pipeline, a petroleum products handler, and JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, are among this year’s high-profile targets of hackers who used malicious software to disrupt the companies’ operations and demand ransoms to be paid in crypto. The Department of Justice in June said it recovered $2.3 million worth of bitcoin out of a $4.4 million ransom that Colonial paid to DarkSide, the group that targeted Colonial, causing big fuel shortages and price hikes.

A Harris Poll survey released in June found a majority of American cryptocurrency owners said they’re in favor of the government stepping up oversight of the $2 trillion cryptocurrency market to fight against ransomware attacks.