The Justice Department has announced a new National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team alongside a civil cyber fraud initiative designed to punish government contractors with lackluster cybersecurity.
US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco was speaking at the Aspen Cyber Summit on Wednesday when announcing the new efforts.
"Cryptocurrency exchanges want to be the banks of the future; well, we need to make sure that folks can have confidence when they're using these systems, and we need to be poised to root out abuse. The point is to protect consumers," she said.
"For too long, companies have chosen silence under the mistaken belief that it's less risky to hide a breach than to bring it forward and report it. That changes today," Monaco added in reference to the civil cyber fraud initiative, which she said would "use civil enforcement tools to pursue companies, those who are government contractors, who receive federal funds when they fail to follow recommended cybersecurity standards."
She went on to explain that the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team will be focused on disrupting financial markets that facilitate cybercrime.
The effort is one of many rolled out by the White House and Justice Department in recent months to address ransomware attacks and the cryptocurrency payments that continue to plague hospitals, schools, and companies worldwide. Last week, President Joe Biden said in a statement that the White House plans to convene a 30-country meeting this month to address cybersecurity.
Despite the increased focus from law enforcement, ransomware gangs have shown little reluctance in attacking any organization they think is willing to pay.
Monaco later said according to FBI data; investigations are showing more than 100 ransomware variants implicated in at least 1,000 attacks.
The civil cyber fraud initiative will leverage the False Claims Act to fine companies that either fail to keep their products secure or fail to be transparent about security incidents. The federal government is still grappling with the fallout from the SolarWinds scandal that exposed significant amounts of data and systems within dozens of US government agencies.