The United States has levied sanctions against SUEX, a cryptocurrency exchange accused of using ransomware attackers to launder money.
Criminals ask for cryptocurrency payments in ransomware attacks because it offers them some shelter, depending on the coin. Even so, to benefit from their attacks, criminals have to turn their cryptocurrency into real currency, and this is where cryptocurrency exchanges come into play. Not all of them are on the up and up, and some allow criminals to cover their tracks and exchange cryptocurrency from cybercrime.
“Virtual currency exchanges such as SUEX are critical to the profitability of ransomware attacks, which help fund additional cybercriminal activity,” says the US Department of Treasury. “Treasury will continue to disrupt and hold accountable these entities to reduce the incentive for cybercriminals to continue to conduct these attacks. This action is the first sanctions designation against a virtual currency exchange and was executed with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Since many of these exchanges aren’t on American soil, it’s difficult to go directly after them. There are other more indirect methods to sanction them, and in some way, it might hurt even more. In this case, SUEX is registered in Europe, in the Czech Republic, but mainly seems to operate from Russia.
“All property and interests in property of the designated target that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them,” the Treasury Department also said.
“Additionally, any entities 50% or more owned by one or more designated persons are also blocked. In addition, financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action.”
This is the first time the US has imposed such sanctions on a crypto exchange, and it likely won’t be the last.