The Justice Department is bolstering its efforts to address cybercrime, as cryptocurrencies have increasingly become part of the global economy and cyberthreats become more common, the New York Times reports. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a virtual speech at the annual Munich cybersecurity conference that DOJ had established an FBI team dedicated to cryptocurrency; added a dozen federal prosecutors to a unit investigating and prosecuting criminal misuses of cryptocurrency; and tapped a director to lead it. “We continue to confront cybercriminals who enjoy safe haven in authoritarian countries and who wreak havoc in both the digital and physical worlds,” Monaco said.
The announcement came a week after the Justice Department made its largest financial seizure ever, confiscating over $3.6 billion worth of Bitcoin stolen in a 2016 hacking. The newly formed unit., the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit, is meant to provide expertise, equipment and training to help agents trace the flow of funds on the blockchain, the digital ledger that stores records of cryptocurrency trades. It is expected to work closely with the prosecutors on the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, established in the fall. That team will be led by Eun Young Choi, a longtime computer crimes prosecutor. “Even in cyberspace, the Department of Justice is able to use a tried and true investigative technique, following the money,” Monaco said. The F.B.I. is investigating more than 100 ransomware variants, and investigators are scrutinizing dozens of ransomware groups estimated to have demanded billions of dollars in payment.