Crypto crime fighters assemble! DoJ forms team for fraud, ransomware

The DoJ's new crypto department will keep a close eye on exchanges and other businesses that commit or facilitate digital asset crime.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has a new crack team of crypto crime enforcers to battle bad actors on the blockchain.

The DoJ’s so-called National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) will police crypto exchanges, as well as mixing and tumbling services.

This new department also aims to retrieve cryptocurrency lost to fraud, extortion, and ransomware attacks.

NCET will find and dismantle entities that “enable criminal actors to flourish — and quite frankly to profit — from abusing cryptocurrency platforms,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in a Wednesday statement.

“As the technology advances, so too must the [DoJ] evolve with it so that we’re poised to root out abuse on these platforms and ensure user confidence in these systems,” she added.

NCET intends to develop investigation strategies for crypto-related crime, forge relationships with crypto-focused attorneys, and advise federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies.

The team consists of attorneys from the DoJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and other departments.

The DoJ is currently on the hunt for someone with experience in blockchain technology and complex criminal investigation to lead the crew.

In addition, Monaco revealed plans for a Civil Cyberfraud initiative. The new watchdog says it will dish out hefty fines to government contractors who fail to upkeep required cybersecurity measures.

The initiative looks to address companies keeping hush-hush about cybersecurity breaches, noted Monaco.

DoJ knows crypto-fueled ransomware was huge in 2021

Ransomware attacks — which usually demand Bitcoin and in some instances Monero — were a regular occurrence earlier this year.

Indeed, several Bitcoin-fueled cyberattacks have hit the US where it hurts in 2021.

In May, Russia-linked hacker unit DarkSide took control of Colonial Pipeline (the largest refiled oil pipeline in the US) and cut off nearly half of the US gas supply.

DoJ’s Lisa Monaco announced crypto crime-fighting NCET at the Aspen Cyber Summit.

[Read more: Crypto lost $430M to thieves, hackers, and fraudsters in 2021, report]

Colonial Pipeline paid DarkSide a 75 BTC ransom (worth $5 million at the time) to restore its systems.

Even a ferry service fell victim to a ransomware attack. As Protos reported, Bitcoin-hungry hackers spoiled holidays to Martha’s Vineyard by taking down The Steamship Authority’s ticketing systems.

Crime is only a small part of crypto

According to Chainalysis’ latest cryptocurrency crime report, illicit activity accounts for just 1% of crypto’s on-chain transaction volume.

The $10 billion in cryptocurrency netted by cybercriminals in 2020 is less than half of the previous year’s figure.

Nevertheless, crypto-powered crime remains a prevalent issue for both governments and the private sector.

In August, a group of London law firms took the matter into their own hands by forming the Crypto Fraud and Asset Recovery (CFAAR) in a bid to help victims.

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