Sen. Gary Peters, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, stated on Tuesday that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will investigate the role of cryptocurrencies in inciting cybercrime.
In a statement, Peters, D-Mich., noted that ransomware attacks, in which hackers illegally obtain or lock company data and charge a ransom for it to be restored, increased 150% from the previous year in 2020, with more than $412 million in cryptocurrencies paid to cybercriminals.
“The increased use of cryptocurrencies as the preferred method of payment in ransomware attacks shows that cybercriminals believe they can commit attacks without being held accountable,” Peters said. “These attacks can have a devastating effect on Americans’ lives and livelihoods and we must do everything we can to deter them — including understanding what additional regulations, actions and reforms are needed to adequately tackle complicated cybersecurity threats.”
Peters said the investigation will examine the rise in ransomware attacks, how cryptocurrency emboldens cybercriminals and what steps lawmakers and federal regulators can take to disrupt hackers from committing crimes to obtain cryptocurrencies.
It will also examine current oversight and regulations into virtual currencies and how to ensure that Americans can safely access and benefit from cryptocurrencies.
Last month, JBS said it paid $11 million in cryptocurrency ransom after a cyberattack shut down its meat processing plants in the United States and Australia, and Colonial said it paid $4.4 million in cryptocurrency after its crucial Colonial Pipeline was shut down by a cyberattack, but the Justice Department recovered most of it.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen described bitcoin, one of the most widely used cryptocurrencies, as extremely speculative and “inefficient” un February, adding that it is frequently used for criminal transactions.
In an effort to combat cryptocurrency frauds, the Treasury Department said in May that all transfers worth at least $10,000 must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.