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Biden admin rep says 'expanding cryptocurrency analysis' is part of strategic review on ransomware

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A White House spokesperson said Tuesday that "expanding cryptocurrency analysis" to trace ransomware-tied transactions is part of a broader focus on such attacks. 

According to a press gaggle transcript from June 1, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spoke to reporters about the newly-disclosed ransomware attack on meat supplier JBS, which U.S. officials have reportedly tied to a criminal organization based in Russia. 

During the gaggle, Jean-Pierre said that "The White House has offered assistance to JBS" and that U.S. officials are probing the situation. News of the JBS ransomware attack comes soon after an attack on Colonial Pipeline.

"The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals. The FBI is investigating the incident and CISA is coordinating with the FBI to offer technical support to the company in recovering from the ransomware attack," Jean-Pierre said.

The White House rep then expanded on the scope of the Biden White House's ransomware efforts, during which she then referred to a focus on cryptocurrency analysis.

Jean-Pierre said:

"Combating ransomware is a priority for the administration.  President Biden has already launched a rapid strategic review to address the increased threat of ransomware to include four lines of effort: one, distribution of ransomware infrastructure and actors working closely with the private sector; two, building an international coalition to hold countries who harbor ransom actors accountable; expanding cryptocurrency analysis to find and pursue criminal transaction; and reviewing the USG’s ransomware policies."

Elements of the U.S. government already contract with industry firms such as Chainalysis on transaction tracing technology. It remains to be seen whether the Biden White House focus on ransomware will see these capabilities expanded by law enforcement agencies. In December, the Department of Justice's inspector general urged the FBI to complete its work on a cryptocurrency support plan. 

"We call on organizations across government and the private sector to take the threat of ransomware seriously and modernize their cyber defenses, including implementing the practices in the executive order," Jean-Pierre went on to say.

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