Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters announced Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day” that the bipartisan investigation will seek to better understand how cryptocurrency emboldens cybercriminals and to identify possible policy changes.
The probe is part of a series of steps the Michigan Democrat and other lawmakers have taken to address a spate of cybersecurity incidents, including soon-to-be-released legislation related to recent ransomware attacks, he said.
“Cryptocurrencies are the medium of choice by these folks,” he told CNN, referring to cybercriminals. “Well over $400 million has been paid in ransoms in this last year from cryptocurrencies.”
The Justice Department said it seized approximately $2.3 million in Bitcoins paid to individuals in a criminal hacking group known as DarkSide — the group blamed for the crippling ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which spurred days of panic buying and fuel shortages.
Ransomware attacks have grown in scope and sophistication in the last year, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said at the time, calling them an “epidemic.”
The back-to-back incidents have raised concerns about the vulnerabilities they reveal in critical infrastructure and industries across the US.
“We want to make sure we are dealing with cryptocurrency and understand why it is the choice by these folks and how can we disrupt that choice,” Peters said.
The investigation will delve into why cryptocurrency, which is difficult for law enforcement to track, is being used in ransomware attacks and how it can be disrupted. It will also aim to identify possible policy solutions for lawmakers and regulators, the senator said.
The Biden administration has also ramped up its efforts to disrupt the growing and increasingly destructive ransomware attacks.
“Individual companies feel under pressure — particularly if they haven’t done the cybersecurity work — to pay off the ransom and move on,” Neuberger added. “But in the long term, that’s what drives the ongoing ransom [attacks]. The more folks get paid, the more it drives bigger and bigger ransoms and more and more potential disruption.”