Government and industry officials grappling with an epidemic of “ransomware”, in which hackers freeze computers and demand payment to unlock them, are focusing on regulation of cryptocurrencies as the key to combating the scourge, said sources familiar with the work of a public and private group.
In a report to be published on Thursday, the think tank is expected to call for a much more aggressive scrutiny of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies which, while gaining traction with investors in the last year, remain the livelihood of traders. of ransomware and other criminals that are at little risk of prosecution in much of the world.
Ransomware gangs raised nearly $350 million last year, triple the amount in 2019, two members of the task force wrote this week.
Businesses, government agencies, hospitals and school systems are among the victims of the ransomware groups, some of which US officials say have friendly relations with countries like North Korea and Russia.
“There is much more that can be done to limit the abuse of these amazing technologies,” said Philip Reiner, executive director of the Institute for Security and Technology, which led the Ransomware Task Force, but declined to comment on the report before it was released. publication.
Just a week ago, the US Department of Justice created a government group on ransomware. Central bank regulators and financial crime investigators around the world are also debating if and how cryptocurrencies should be regulated.
The new rules proposed by the public-private group, some of which would require congressional intervention, are primarily aimed at breaking the anonymity of cryptocurrency transactions, the sources said.
If implemented, they could temper the enthusiasm of those who see cryptocurrencies as a haven from national monetary policies and government oversight of individuals’ financial activities, and who have surpassed $1 trillion in total capitalization.
The task force includes representatives from the FBI and the US Secret Service, as well as major technology and security companies.