The U.S. Treasury Department says it is sanctioning a cryptocurrency exchange for its alleged role in processing illicit proceeds from ransomware attacks.
The move, the department says, is part of a larger effort to crack down on the use of cryptocurrency by illicit actors.
The exchange sanctioned is Czech Republic-based Suex OTC, S.R.O., and it is the first of its kind move against an exchange.
"Exchanges like Suex are critical to attackers' ability to extract profits from ransomware attackers," Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a call with reporters previewing the announcement. "Today's action is a signal of our intention to expose and disrupt the illicit infrastructure using these attacks."
The Treasury said more than 40% of transactions on Suex involved illicit actors.
Ransomware attacks are becoming more common, the Treasury reports, noting that in 2020, payments over ransomware attacks totaled more than $400 million, up four times from 2019.
One recent, high-profile ransomware attack happened in May when hackers shut down a major fuel pipeline and demanded $4 million worth of Bitcoin to allow operations to resume. The hack led to nationwide gas shortages.
Sanctions on Suex will prevent the company from accessing any U.S.-based assets and will prevent Americans from using the company.
Some information in this report came from Reuters.