Following the rise in cryptocurrency crime and ransomware attacks, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has revealed its plans to launch a new unit dedicated to stopping cybercriminals that abuse digital currencies.
At this year's Munich Cyber Security Conference, US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the formation of the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit (VAXU). According to Monaco, the new team will prevent the US government from falling behind “threat actors who exploit innovations as fast as the marketplace produces them”.
The VAXU team will also bring the agency's cryptocurrency experts, blockchain analysis and virtual asset seizure together under one roof to conduct investigations and train other members of the FBI on how to deal with these growing threats.
National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team
The FBI's VAXU team will be part of a division of the Justice Department created late last year called the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) that has been tasked with investigating the ways in which cybercriminals utilize digital assets in their operations.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division provided further insight in a press release on why the NCET was created in the first place, saying:
“With the rapid innovation of digital assets and distributed ledger technologies, we have seen a rise in their illicit use by criminals who exploit them to fuel cyberattacks and ransomware and extortion schemes; traffic in narcotics, hacking tools and illicit contraband online; commit thefts and scams; and launder the proceeds of their crimes. The NCET will serve as the focal point for the department’s efforts to tackle the growth of crime involving these technologies."
In addition to launching the FBI's new VAXU unit, US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco also announced that federal prosecutor Eun Young Choi, who has experience arraigning cybercriminals, will be the first director of the NCET.
We'll likely hear more from both the FBI and the NCET as they begin going after cybercriminals who have used cryptocurrency to launder money and as a form of payment in their ransomware attacks.
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After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.