Victims of ransomware attacks in the U.S. have paid about $590 million to criminals demanding payment to unfreeze targeted computers and systems in the first half of 2021, a report by the Treasury Department said Friday.
The Financial Trends Analysis by Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said that 635 ransomware suspicious activity reports, or SARs, involving 458 payments, were reported through June 30, a 30% increase from all of 2020.
The FinCEN report cited the reported $5 million in untraceable cryptocurrency paid by the Colonial Pipeline to Eastern European hackers in May to free that company's systems. The attack disrupted gasoline shipments up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
''Other recent attacks have targeted various sectors, including manufacturing, legal, insurance, health care, energy, education, and the food supply chain in the United States and across the globe,'' the report says.
The $590 million paid represents a nearly 42% increase over the $416 million extorted from cybercrime victims in the entire 12 months of 2020.
''Ransomware and cyber-attacks are victimizing businesses large and small across America and are a direct threat to our economy,'' Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was quoted as saying in the report.
Bitcoin is the most preferred method of payment demanded by hackers, who infect a computer system with malicious software — or malware — to block access to it. The hackers require a ransom to return control of the system to its rightful owner.
''Ransomware actors are criminals who are enabled by gaps in compliance regimes across the global virtual currency ecosystem,'' Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement Friday quoted by TheHill.com.
''Treasury is helping to stop ransomware attacks by making it difficult for criminals to profit from their crimes, but we need partners in the private sector to help prevent this illicit activity,'' he said.
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