The US Officials seized about $6.1 million of funds tied to the alleged ransom payments to hackers. During the press conference, the Department of Justice also announced new sanctions against the cryptocurrency exchange and the arrests of the suspected hackers. In addition, they have worked harder to weaken the hacking groups that disrupted the businesses in the U.S. Retrieval of the funds showed how much help the victim’s companies cooperation can lead to justice.
The Department of Justice was able to track down the ransomware group hackers after the Colonial Pipeline Co. paid the hackers approximately $4.4 million during their hacking in May that has interrupted the business in the East Coast’s most significant conduit for fuel. In the first half of this year, it was estimated that about $590 million payments were made to the hackers. This information was reported by Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which added that the amount has increased compared to last year’s $416 million.
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On Monday, November 8, 2021, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo announced that they had sanctioned Chatex, the cryptocurrency exchange that reportedly facilitated the payments to the hackers. Because of the alleged involvement in the exchange in the ransomware transactions, they have been blacklisted by the U.S. government in the recent months following the SUEX OTC, a Russian-owned cryptocurrency exchange. All the assets of said entities are now subject to U.S. jurisdiction and are currently blocked. Domestic cryptocurrency exchanges are also prohibited and all the processing of domestic transactions. The Deputy Treasury Secretary added that more than half of the transactions of Chatex were related to ransomware, high-risk exchanges, and darknet markets. The companies that are facing ransomware attacks often use outside cybersecurity specialists to negotiate with the hackers.
The Treasury Department urged the businesses to report ransomware attacks to them to help them track down the said hackers. The records show that the transactions for Chatex have a presence in Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, Estonia, and Latvia. The authorities in Poland and Romania also arrested several individuals, including a Ukrainian national who is allegedly connected to the REvil, the ransomware gang behind the hacking attacks on the software provider Kaseya Ltd. and the meat processor JBS SA.
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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at the press conference that a 28-year-old Russian national named Yevgeniy Polyanin is allegedly one of the hackers and had made about $13 million from the ransomware hacking. About $6.1 million were seized in September of the said amount from Polyanin. An arrest warrant came out on Monday, November 8, 2021, and Polyanin was charged with hacking at least two companies and about thirteen government entities in Texas alone. Polyanin is reportedly still in Russia, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray. As of the moment, no words or comments were made by Mr. Polyanin as he cannot be reached right now.
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Sources: Wall Street Journal, Cryptelicious, The Hill
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