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US Department of Treasury Blacklists Russian Crypto Exchange Suex

Janet Yellen
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen announced sanctions against the Russian crypto exchange Suex. Credit: University of Michigan’s Ford School, CC BY-ND 2.0

United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that the Department of the Treasury will introduce sanctions against the Russian cryptocurrency exchange Suex on Wednesday. Suex has been effectively blacklisted for allegedly laundering millions on behalf of ransomware operators, fraudsters and dark web markets.

This is the first time the Biden administration has taken such measures against a cryptocurrency exchange. Biden is hoping to ramp up his fight against ransomware.

The department has added Suex to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List which blocks Americans from working with the company.

“Ransomware and cyberattacks are victimizing businesses large and small across America and are a direct threat to our economy. We will continue to crack down on malicious actors,” says Yellen. “As cybercriminals 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.”

Almost half of Suex’s transactions were illicit

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, known as OFAC, went ahead with blacklisting the Russian exchange after it allegedly helped cybercrime — including laundering money from at least eight ransomware variants. Almost half of the exchange’s known transactions are the product of illegal activity, according to the department’s officials.

Treasury officials said that: “Virtual currencies can be used for illicit activity through peer-to-peer exchangers, mixers and exchanges. This includes the facilitation of sanctions evasion, ransomware schemes and other cybercrimes.” The department aims to stop “illicit actors from exploiting virtual currencies to undermine U.S. foreign policy and national security interest(s).”

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a member of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission said that, “The excellent ransomware guidance released today … makes clear that the U.S. government does not support ransom payments for hackers, which serve only to perpetuate the cybercriminal ecosystem.”

Inside ransomware and data breaches– and how they could affect you

Ransomware attacks encrypt, or lock up, your programs or data files, but your data is usually not exposed, so you probably have nothing to worry about. If the target is a company whose services you use, you might be inconvenienced while the company is out of commission. In the case of Suex, the exchange was allegedly assisting ransomware operators in moving their money through cryptocurrency.

A data breach could include theft of your online credentials: your user name and password. But hackers might also steal your bank account or credit card numbers or other sensitive or protected information, such as your personal health information, your email address, phone number, street address or Social Security number.

Having your data stolen from a company can be scary, but it is also an opportunity to take stock and apply some common-sense measures to protect your data elsewhere. Even if your data has not been exposed yet, why not take the time now to protect yourself?

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