The U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has revealed that more than $5 billion in bitcoin transactions were linked to ransomware payments.
As Bitcoin.com noted Tuesday (Oct. 19), the findings were published by FinCEN in a report outlining ransomware activity in the first half of 2021.
According to FinCEN, 635 reports and 458 ransomware transactions were reported as of June, more than the total incidents from the previous year. Most of these payments were made with bitcoin, although the report logged a slight increase of payments made in monero, the privacy-focused cryptocurrency.
The report also found that most of the funds collected through these payments were directed to entities using “chain hopping,” a practice involving changing one cryptocurrency to another to avoid detection by law enforcement.
FinCEN cautioned organizations to file a suspicious activity report as soon as possible following a ransomware attack and to implement detection systems into their defense systems.
The organization’s $5.2 billion figure is considerably higher than the $590 million in suspected ransomware payments the U.S. Treasury reported last week.
Ransomware attacks in North America increased by 158% between 2019 and 2020, with the FBI getting nearly 2,500 ransomware complaints last year.
So far, 2021 has seen several high-profile ransomware attacks, including the ones targeting the Colonial Pipeline, a critical fuel source for the East Coast, and JBS, one of the country’s biggest meat suppliers.
The prevalence of ransomware has led U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Deborah Ross to introduce legislation that would give the Department of Homeland Security more data on ransomware payments, and offer a stronger understanding of how cybercriminals conduct business as well as the overall ransomware threat.
The Department of Justice has also formed the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), which will investigate crimes involving cryptocurrency, including ransomware incidents.