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US Treasury Targets This Russian Ransomware Group in New Sanctions

2 mins
Updated by Kyle Baird
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In Brief

  • The US Treasury Department has designated two Russian individuals after finding links between them and criminal group LockBit.
  • The two sanctioned individuals appear to be linked with LockBit via the latter's third-party ransomware-as-a-service software.
  • According to Chainalysis, ransomware attacks stole over $1 billion in 2023, with new intermediaries that sell hacked networks.
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The US Treasury Department has sanctioned two individuals affiliated with the Russian ransomware group that stole $9 billion in assets from a US broker-dealer. The software, created by Russia’s LockBit group, likely contributed to the rise in ransomware attacks in 2023.

The US added Russian nationals Artur Sungatov and Ivan Kondratiev to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) registry of specially designated individuals. 

US Treasury Increases Crypto Sanctions

In addition to adding their names to the list, the Treasury Department has also blacklisted ten crypto addresses belonging to the individuals. The sanctions mean US companies and citizens may not transact with the individuals.

All properties belonging to the Russians must also be reported to the US Treasury Department. The latest sanctions are part of the US Treasury’s ongoing effort to crack down on terrorist financing.

It previously blacklisted crypto wallet addresses belonging to the North Korean group Lazarus. The regulator later proposed that altcoin and bitcoin mixers follow the same record-keeping and reporting rules imposed on foreign banks.

Read more: Crypto vs. Banking: Which Is a Smarter Choice?

money laundering ransomware
Money Laundering Concentration by Crime | Source: Chainalysis

The US government has warned Russia to take more concrete steps to prevent the operations of terrorist financing from taking place in the country. LockBit, the subject of a seizure by US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, was a Russian darknet. 

How Ransomware Strains Are Evolving

On-chain analysis firm Chainalysis argued that ransomware attacks increased in 2023 to over $1 billion after a dip in 2022. Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future confirmed around 583 new ransomware variants. These variants can threaten cyber and cryptocurrency security.

ransomware loss 2023
Total Value Received by Ransomware Attackers | Source: Chainalysis

LockBit and Phobos are ransomware strains whose Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) allowed affiliates like Sungatov and Kondratiev to carry out the attacks. Some new entrants copied code from existing strains to reap high profits with minimal investments, while others adopted rebrands to distance themselves from sanctioned entities.

The growth of initial access brokers (IABs) has made it easier for bad actors to conduct ransomware attacks. These entities sell penetrated networks to ransomware attackers for less than $1000.

Read more: 15 Most Common Crypto Scams To Look Out For

The combination of IABs and RaaS creates a ‘disturbingly effective’ business model for criminals, says Andrew Davis of cybersecurity incident response consulting firm Kivu Consulting.

“The increase in attack volume can be attributed to the affiliate model’s ease of access and the adoption of ransomware-as-a-service, a disturbingly effective business model for cybercriminals,” Davis said.

BeInCrypto reached out to the US Treasury Department but had yet to hear back at press time

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David Thomas
David Thomas graduated from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban, South Africa, with an Honors degree in electronic engineering. He worked as an engineer for eight years, developing software for industrial processes at South African automation specialist Autotronix (Pty) Ltd., mining control systems for AngloGold Ashanti, and consumer products at Inhep Digital Security, a domestic security company wholly owned by Swedish conglomerate Assa Abloy. He has experience writing software in C,...
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