US officials seize $6.1M in crypto from ransomware actors, adds Chatex to sanctions list

US officials seize $6.1M in crypto from ransomware actors, adds Chatex to sanctions list

The United States Department of the Treasury announced that it would impose sanctions against Chatex, a cryptocurrency exchange, and its support network for allegedly helping ransomware actors.

The Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (or OFAC) added Chatex, IZIBITS OU and Chatextech SIA to its list of entities sanctioned under the U.S. government in an advisory update on Nov. 8. According to the department, Chatex had “direct ties” to Russia-based company Suex OTC. This was sanctioned by it in September.

OFAC claims that Chatex helped facilitate ransomware transactions. More than half of Chatex’s transactions were “traced back to illicit or high risk activities such as darknet market exchanges and ransomware” by the Estonian and Latvian authorities.

The department stated that Chatex and other unprincipled virtual currency exchanges are crucial to ransomware’s profitability, particularly by laundering and paying out criminal proceeds. “The Treasury will continue to use every authority to deter malicious cyber actors, stop criminal proceeds from being ill-gotten, and prevent additional actions against the American people.”

OFAC also announced that Yaroslav Vasinskyi, a Ukrainian national, and Yevgeniy Poloanin were part of ransomware attacks on multiple U.S. government agencies as well as private sector entities. U.S. citizens are now prohibited from transacting with Vasinskyi and Polyanin or Chatex. They may also face sanctions or enforcement action.

The State Department announced that it would offer a $10 million reward for information leading towards the capture of any “key leadership position” within the Sodinokibi/REvil ransomware organization. It would also offer a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of or conviction of anyone who attempted to launch a major ransomware attacks.

Related: The secret weapon of ransomware is the Bitcoin ledger

Today, U.S. Attorney general Merrick Garland stated that Vasinsky was indicted by the Justice Department in August for hacking personal computers and conspiring to launder money through ransomware attacks. According to the Attorney General Vasinsky was arrested by Polish authorities in October. He is currently awaiting extradition to America. The Justice Department also announced a similar indictment of Polyanin. He was accused of stealing $6.1 million worth crypto from 3,000 ransomware attack victims.

Garland stated that “for the second time in five month, we announced the seizure digital proceeds ransomware deployed transnationally criminal group.” “This won’t be the last — the U.S. government continues to aggressively pursue all ransomware ecosystems and increase our nation’s resilience to cyber threats.

Ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure in the United States have been a key issue under President Joe Biden. A government task force took more than $2million in crypto to pay ransom after an attack on Colonial Pipeline.

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