The U.S. Treasury has announced new sanctions against 10 individuals and two entities linked to some of the most lethal malware attacks of the past three years. The new sanctions included targeting BTC addresses that the cybercriminals have been using to collect the ransom and launder proceeds.
In its announcement, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said that the sanctions were coordinated across the U.S. government as well as with the U.K., Australia, and Canada.
In a coordinated action across the U.S. Government, OFAC designated a dozen Iran-based persons for their roles in malicious cyber acts, including ransomware activity. The U.S., Australia, Canada & the UK are also publishing a joint cyber security advisory. https://t.co/OVnr3jprBA
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) September 14, 2022
In its press release, the OFAC claimed that the sanctioned entities have been terrorizing the U.S. since 2020. The U.S. says they are all linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of Iran’s Armed Forces.
The group has been behind ransomware campaigns such as APT 35, Charming Kitten, Phosphorous, and Tunnel Vision.
The group targeted a New Jersey municipality in one of its attacks, creating unauthorized accounts and destabilizing the network. They also attacked a children’s hospital last year and targeted educational institutions, emergency service providers, and more.
The OFAC targeted two entities—Najee Technology Hooshmand Fater LLC and Afkar System Yazd Company—which it claims were specifically founded on unleashing cyber terror. In particular, the agency focuses on the two founders of these companies, Mansour Ahmadi and Ahmad Khatibi Aghda, who it accuses of spearheading the malware campaigns.
In addition to the sanctions, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office unsealed an indictment on September 14 against the two for ransomware-related cyberattacks.
Further, the DoJ’s State’s Rewards for Justice has offered a $10 million reward to anyone with information leading to the identification or location of the two.
The new sanctions come at a time when the Treasury and other U.S. government departments have focused on curbing crime in the digital asset world. Sanctions on wallets, addresses, exchanges, and other Bitcoin-related entities have become common as digital assets become more popular worldwide.
The biggest move in recent times is the sanction against Tornado Cash, an Ethereum-based coin mixer that has become a criminals’ haven. With $10 billion in transaction volume in 2021 alone, Tornado had started to worry regulators, but it all came down with the sanctions and the consequent arrest of one of the platform’s developers.
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