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By Devon Warren-Kachelein
Thu | Oct 7, 2021 | 1:10 PM PDT

Earlier this year, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a counter-ransomware initiative to battle cybercrime like ransomware.

Now, there will be a new division of law enforcement coming to town.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking steps forward to combat criminal activity made easy by Bitcoin by launching the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET). U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said:

"Today we are launching the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team to draw on the Department's cyber and money laundering expertise to strengthen our capacity to dismantle the financial entities that enable criminal actors to flourish—and quite frankly to profit—from abusing cryptocurrency platforms. As the technology advances, so too must the Department evolve with it so that we're poised to root out abuse on these platforms and ensure user confidence in these systems." 

This new branch of law enforcement will focus on breaking up online money laundering rings, disrupting payments to ransomware gangs using virtual currency, and other cyber-related criminal activity.  

The DOJ's announcement comes on the tail end of the first sanction against a cryptocurrency exchange by the U.S. 

Background of cryptocurrency law enforcement team  

According to a statement by DOJ, the department is currently seeking a leader to head the NCET. Team members will be recruited from three other federal departments, including Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS), Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), and the Criminal Division from U.S. Attorneys' Offices. 

"Team members will draw upon the expertise of their home offices while working collaboratively under the Team Leader to combine their expertise in financial systems, blockchain technology, tracing transactions, and applicable criminal statutes to address illegal activity involving cryptocurrency in a structured way," reads the statement. 

Objectives are being defined by findings from the Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework, which was released in October 2020.

How will the NCET operate? 

Crypto has long posed value to cyber thieves for the level of anonymity it allows and ease of transferring it over country boundaries and hiding it. Experts have also pointed out the role cryptocurrency plays in making financial extortion easier for cybercriminals, as reported by SecureWorld News.

Any area related to criminals using cryptocurrency for payment will be investigated and prosecuted by this new branch of the DOJ, including ransomware schemes.

According to the Cryptocurrency Enforcement Framework, illicit uses of cryptocurrency will be targeted, including the following: 

  • "financial transactions associated with the commission of crimes,
    such as buying and selling drugs or weapons on the dark web, leasing servers to commit cybercrimes, or soliciting funds to support
    terrorist activity"
  • "money laundering or shield otherwise legitimate activity from tax, reporting, or other legal requirements"
  • "commit crimes directly implicating the cryptocurrency marketplace
    itself, such as stealing cryptocurrency from exchanges through hacking or using the promise of cryptocurrency to defraud
    unwitting investors"

The NCET will also work to train, support, and develop relationships with other agencies in strategizing around the cryptocurrency crackdown.

"Because crimes involving cryptocurrency can take many forms, the NCET will not only pursue its own cases, but also support existing and future cases brought across the Criminal Division and in the U.S. Attorneys' Offices across the country," the statement reads.

What are your thoughts on NCET? Will the formation of this group deter cybercriminals, and will we start seeing a decline in ransomware attacks? SecureWorld News will continue reporting on the developments. 

[RESOURCE] Tune into the latest episode of The SecureWorld Sessions podcast where three CISOs play a game show based around modern cyber resiliency. Share your comments with us by rating and reviewing the podcast through your favorite app. 

 

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