UK Sanctions Russian Ransomware Actors Seeking Crypto from Victims

The UK government has announced sanctions against seven Russian nationals alleged to mastermind a wave of ransomware attacks targeting local businesses and governmental organisations. The sanctions were imposed in collaboration with the United States government, with authorities confiscating the criminal’s assets and imposing a travel ban. 

Ransomware attacks typically infiltrate a business or government computer system, denying workers access to files and limiting their ability to carry out daily operations. Attackers typically require a ransom to restore access to stolen data, often requiring that payments be made via cryptocurrencies to make it harder for authorities to trace.

The UK government designates ransomware attacks as a Tier-1 security threat, hence the sanctions against the Russian citizens. Per the UK government, some 149 British entities have been impacted by ransomware strains, Conti and Ryuk. 

UK-based victims have shelled out £27 million as ransom, with the Conti and Ryuk operations landing their creators £10 million and £17 million, respectively. Additionally, the Conti ransomware stain amassed an estimated £149 million ($180 million) from its victims globally in 2021 and was among the first cybercrime groups to publicly back Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The names of the Russian nationals sanctioned by the UK for the Conti and Ryuk ransomware attacks are as follows: Vitaliy Kovalev, Valery Sedletski, Valentin Karyagin, Maksim Mikhailov, Dmitry Pleshevskiy, Mikhail Iskritskiy, and Ivan Vakhromeyev. The UK government warns that sending funds to individuals through cryptocurrency is prohibited under the newly imposed sanctions.

UK government recognizes crypto’s potential.

While cracking down on the illegal use of cryptocurrencies for activities such as ransomware, the UK government has shown great awareness of the potential embedded in the payment technology. 

The UK government is already working towards developing a digital pound and creating regulations to protect cryptocurrency investors. The long-term goal is to make the region a hub for crypto-related businesses and deliver huge economic value to the UK.