FBI Asst. Director Calls Crypto ‘Only Game in Town’ as Ransomware Flourishes

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Key Takeaways:

  • Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division said in a Bloomberg virtual panel discussion on cybersecurity said that “Crypto is the primary currency, the primary vehicle, to facilitate extortion payments. It’s the only game in town.”
  • According to Vorndran, the bureau recently discovered evidence indicating that criminal gangs in Russia and Eurasia have established call centres to professionalise their ransomware businesses and are sharing data gathered from victims.

Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division said in a Bloomberg virtual panel discussion on cybersecurity said that “Crypto is the primary currency, the primary vehicle, to facilitate extortion payments. It’s the only game in town. We all know the blockchain offers us some opportunities, but the ability to pay crypto, script it immediately into a tumbler, whether through an extortion payment or theft, is a huge, huge challenge for us.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), cryptocurrencies and deep-fake technology are sending chills throughout the US government. Criminals particularly like Bitcoin because it is virtually unhackable and, unlike cash, can be transferred in large amounts almost instantly without ever touching the banking system. As a result of these factors, the virtual token is almost always the form of payment demanded in ransomware attacks, such as those that use malware to paralyse computer networks.

The FBI discourages companies from submitting to extortion. It does so because the funds, it claims, only embolden bad actors and augment their capabilities. According to Vorndran, the bureau recently discovered evidence indicating that criminal gangs in Russia and Eurasia have established call centres to professionalise their ransomware businesses and are sharing data gathered from victims.

A growing area of concern for officials is so-called synthetic content. Advances in computing technology have propelled criminals from the lab to the real world. It allows them to deceive, misinform, and defraud by impersonating others. One of the things that keep Vorndran awake at night is the potential for such technology to erode democracy.

Vorndran further said that “When you look at biometric authentication, facial recognition, digital footprints, mimicking voices, these things are huge, huge challenges to law enforcement, to the intelligence community in the next 5-10 years. The synthetic content piece is something that is a fascinating discussion but also a very, very scary discussion.”

One persistent issue for the US government is the failure of companies and organisations to report cyberattacks. Companies and organisations do not report cyberattacks when they occur. According to Vorndran, the government estimates it has data on only 20% to 25% of domestic cyber breaches, a data set too small to be very useful, especially when attempting to predict what adversaries will do next.

Chaahat Girdhar
Chaahat Girdhar

I'm Chaahat Girdhar, a journalist by profession who's turning her dreams into vision and vision into reality. I'm curious and have an appetite for gaining new knowledge. So I'm looking forward to learning things in the better way possible.

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