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The growing impact of ransomware and cybercrime is worrying the US Administration, especially as it is intertwined with cryptocurrency. 

US President Joe Biden stated top U.S. national security advisers will gather officials from 30 countries this month to discuss the threat. The new Counter-Ransomware Initiative is expected to bolster US diplomatic talks with Russia as well as the NATO alliance and Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations.

Ransom software works by encrypting victims’ data. Typically hackers will offer the victim a key in return for cryptocurrency payments that can run into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

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The online meeting hosted by the White House National Security Council will also be aimed at “improving law enforcement collaboration” on issues like “the illicit use of cryptocurrency,” Biden said in a statement.

Following the recent attacks against US critical infrastructures, the Administration elevated the response to cybersecurity to the senior-most levels of the administration. Incidents included mainly the attack on meat producer JBS SA, supplying approximately one-fifth of meat globally. The company paid an $11 million ransom. It was believed to have originated from a criminal group with Russian links. The attack on Colonial Pipeline resulted in the payment of a nearly $5 million ransom to hackers believed to be based in Eastern Europe. About 45% of all fuel consumed on the US East Coast arrives via this company’s pipe system. Both companies paid the ransoms in bitcoin.

In fact, cybersecurity professionals have long been discussing the role of cryptocurrency in the rise of ransomware attacks. Virtual currency is easy to transfer across country borders, making it the currency of choice for most cybercriminals.

A White House official said they are particularly eager to address “the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments” and intend to “investigate and prosecute ransomware criminals,” many who are anonymous and attack institutions in other countries, according to international news agencies.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has recently announced a number of actions to strike down cryptocurrency transactions related to ransom laundering. According to secureworld.io, one of them was sanctions put on SUEX OTC, S.R.O., a foreign virtual currency exchange, for its part in supporting cybercriminal activity, a first-of-its-kind action by the United States.