Senator calls on agencies to take action to prevent criminal use of cryptocurrency

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Senator Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) on Thursday raised concerns over the use of cryptocurrency for criminal purposes, urging key federal agencies to take action.



Senator Maggie Hassan (DN.H.)


© Greg Nash
Senator Maggie Hassan (DN.H.)

The senator’s concerns were expressed after the escalation of ransomware and other cyber attacks over the past year, in which hackers used cryptocurrency markets to obtain payments from victims seeking to regain access. to their networks.

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Hassan, member of the Senate Committee on Internal Security and Government Affairs, sent a letter detailing his concerns to officials from the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Hassan pointed to a recent incident in his home state of New Hampshire in which $ 2.3 million was stolen from the city of Peterborough as funds could not be recovered after being converted by attackers in cryptocurrency.

“The anonymity provided by the cryptocurrency has helped facilitate its use by criminals in multiple ways,” she warned. “These uses include dark web drug sales, payments for ransomware attacks, tax evasion, terrorist and organized crime financing, money laundering, and more.”

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The senator asked for details on what powers agencies have to regulate US-based cryptocurrency exchanges, what other authorities they need, and whether cryptocurrency exchanges should be required to reimburse prone individuals. to fraud due to the use of the exchange.

None of the agencies Hassan sent letters to responded to The Hill’s request for comment.

The potential increased regulation of cryptocurrency has come under a microscope on Capitol Hill in recent months, with a debate on amendments on this subject delay the Senate’s $ 1 trillion infrastructure package in August. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are expected to continue fighting over the issues surrounding cryptocurrency regulation this month.

The efforts have grown in importance after the proliferation of cyber attacks, including separate ransomware attacks in May against Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA, temporarily threatening key supply chains.

The two companies chose to pay the ransoms demanded by the hackers in order to quickly return to full production, with Colonial Pipeline pay the equivalent of $ 4.4 million in bitcoin and JBS pay the equivalent of $ 11 million in bitcoins. The Ministry of Justice recovered later just over half of the ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline.

The Ministry of Justice published a frame last year, a warning regarding growing security concerns regarding the use of cryptocurrency, with the executive noting that “few technologies are more potentially transformative and disruptive, and more susceptible to abuse. “

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