The big picture: Bitcoin has increasingly become an attractive option for laundering purposes, in addition to allowing many to make money through illicit means thanks to the largely unregulated technology it's based on. The U.S. government has recently started to pay more attention to the cryptocurrency space however, which has resulted in the revelation that approximately $5.2 billion in Bitcoin transactions have been linked to ransomware payments.
As detailed in a report released by the U.S. Treasury department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), transactions related to ransomware within the first 6 months of 2021 reached $590 million. The amount already exceeds the $416 million figure reported for 2020.
The mean average total monthly suspicious amount of ransomware transactions totalled $66.4 million, while the median average was $45 million. "FinCEN identified bitcoin (BTC) as the most common ransomware-related payment method in reported transactions," the report reveals.
A more interesting piece of information that was uncovered by the research is the fact that a massive $5.2 billion in transactions has been attached to outgoing Bitcoin ransomware-tied payments. That figure has been linked to the top 10 most common ransomware variants.
The FinCEN investigation discovered the figure by examining 2,184 suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed during the last decade, between January 2011 and June 2021. 68 ransomware variants were identified, with REvil/Sodinokibi, Conti, DarkSide, Avaddon, and Phobos being the most frequently reported perpetrators.
Related reading: The Evolution of Ransomware: How Did We Get Here?
Ransomware gangs have clearly been taking advantage of cryptocurrency to launder money through, but the U.S. Treasury has announced plans to clamp down on such activities. Last month, the department revealed its first-ever sanction against a cryptocurrency exchange.
Elsewhere, Bitcoin has reached a 6-month high by surpassing the $60,000 mark. As of writing, it moves close to all-time high price of $64,863 recorded on April 14, 2021.