More Details On The New FBI Task Force Responsible For Crypto Crimes

More Details On The New FBI Task Force Responsible For Crypto Crimes

crypto task force

Image credit: hocus-focus, iStock

A new task force at the Federal Bureau of Investigation dedicated to crypto crimes will mainly focus on digital extortion and ransomware, at least for now, according to newly announced details.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the formation of the task force at the Munich Cyber Security Conference on Feb. 17.

The news came after the Justice Department launched the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), promoted as a significant step in the U.S. government’s crusade against criminal abuse of cryptocurrencies. 

Some experts say that the new U.S. focus on crypto crimes doesn’t pose any threat to the legitimate crypto industry. In fact, the efforts to combat bad actors in the space could help make the sector more transparent and a safe zone for investments.

The Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit (VAXU) task force will enlist personnel from the various units of the FBI with crypto expertise to conduct investigations that use blockchain analysis and can result in virtual assets’ seizure, Coin Telegraph reported. The VAXU will also work jointly with foreign task forces to track down multinational criminal networks operating in crypto.

Fighting cyber ransomware will be the main priority of VAXU for now. 

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“Ransomware and digital extortion, like many other crimes fueled by cryptocurrency, only work if the bad guys get paid, which means we have to bust their business model […] The currency might be virtual, but the message to companies is concrete: if you report to us, we can follow the money and not only help you but hopefully prevent the next victim,” Monaco said.

Also, despite its primary affiliation with the FBI, VAXU will, in fact, be part of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), launched in October 2021 to target money launderers and cybercriminals.

There was an 80 percent increase in crypto crimes in 2021, Chainalysis reported.

Eun Young Choi, ex-senior counsel to the Deputy Attorney General Monaco, was appointed on Feb. 17 to lead the NCET. Choi spent more than nine years as the cybercrime coordinator at the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, where she dealt with cryptocurrency while investigating money laundering. 

Choi led the case against a Russian hacker who helped steal information about more than 80 million JPMorgan & Chase Co. customers from 2012 until mid-2015. Her team will focus on crypto exchanges, mixers, tumblers, and other types of digital asset infrastructure providers that might allow for “the criminal misuse of cryptocurrencies,” according to a press release.

Image credit: hocus-focus, iStock, https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/hocus-focus?mediatype=photography