OFAC Regulatory Crackdown on Ransomware Attacks

Protect yourself from online attacks that threaten your identity, your files, your system, and your financial well-being.


Ransomware is a Serious and Growing Problem

In recent years, Ransomware has evolved from merely encrypting files/disabling networks in solicitation of ransom, to sophisticated attacks that often involve actual data access, theft and sometimes, the threat of publication. These sophisticated malware attacks frequently destroy backups and provide criminals even more leverage over their victims, coercing them to pay ransoms.  Ransomware does not just target businesses – it is often used to attack hospitals, research institutions, and other public services that are especially critical during this global pandemic.

It is increasingly common for Ransomware attacks to be associated with large sophisticated cyber-criminal organizations, with a central entity providing the tools, training, and ability to collect ransoms and sending its “associates” out to cause harm. As long as victims continue to pay ransoms, Ransomware is able to expand. Ransomware is also being adapted for new, criminal purposes.  Increasingly, hackers associated with countries like Iran and North Korea are using Ransomware to generate an influx of cash into their economic streams and bypass economic sanctions. Faced with an urgent need to stop the spread of Ransomware, law enforcement is now moving past its old strategy of strongly discouraging victims from paying ransoms. Regulatory agencies – such as OFAC and the SEC – are implementing regulations to prevent victims from paying ransom to buy their way out of a Ransomware attack.  These regulations arm law enforcement with a new enforcement mechanism – allowing them to punish companies who choose to pay ransom in the face of a Ransomware attack. Accordingly, they signal a new area of regulatory enforcement that will likely become the government’s most powerful tool to curb the spread of Ransomware.

Regulatory Changes to Combat Ransomware

In the absence of evidence of data access or exfiltration, a Ransomware incident may not be considered a breach, and therefore, may fall outside any reporting requirements for cyber-incidents. …

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