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On October 13, the member nations of the G7 issued a joint statement stressing their commitment to working with the financial services sector to address and mitigate ransomware attacks. The statement highlights the recent increase in ransomware attacks over the last few years and notes that the scale, sophistication, and frequency has intensified as attackers “demand payments primarily in virtual assets to facilitate money laundering.” These ransom payments, the G7 warns, “can incentivize further malicious cyber activity; benefit malign actors and fund illicit activities; and present a risk of money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing, and other illicit financial activity.” The G7 reminds financial institutions that paying ransom is subject to anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws and regulations, and warns non-financial services companies that providing certain services, such as money transfers, may subject them to the same obligations. The G7 further urges entities to follow international obligations for reporting ransom payments as suspicious activity and to take measures to prevent sanctions evasions. Moreover, the G7 recommends that entities implement standards set by the Financial Action Task Force to reduce criminals’ access to and use of financial services and digital assets, and emphasizes the importance of implementing effective programs to “hold and exchange information about the originators and beneficiaries of virtual asset transfers.” The G7 plans to share information related to ransomware threats, explore opportunities for coordinated targeted financial sanctions, and encourage a global implementation of AML/CFT obligations on virtual assets and virtual asset service providers.
On October 13, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), joined by the Bankers Electronic Crimes Task Force and the U.S. Secret Service, released a self-assessment tool to help supervised financial institutions mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks. The tool will also help financial institutions assess how well they are managing risks and identify gaps for increasing security. CSBS developed the tool in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service and the Bankers Electronic Crimes Task Force as incidents of ransomware have been on the rise and continue to spread.
On October 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence issued two advisories to aid U.S. individuals and businesses in combating ransomware scams and attacks. In issuing the advisories, Treasury emphasized that “[e]fforts to detect and report ransomware payments are vital to prevent and deter cyber actors from deploying malicious software to extort individuals and businesses, and to hold ransomware attackers accountable for their crimes.” The advisory released by FinCEN, titled the Advisory on Ransomware and the Use of the Financial System to Facilitate Ransom Payments, provides information on the role of financial intermediaries in payments, ransomware trends and typologies, and related financial red flags indicators. Among other things, the advisory urges financial institutions to file suspicious activity reports when handling any transfer of funds related to a ransomware-related activity, and provides information on effectively reporting and sharing information related to ransomware attacks.
The advisory released by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), titled the Advisory on Potential Sanctions Risks for Facilitating Ransomware Payments, cautions that companies that facilitate ransomware payments to cyber actors on behalf of victims targeted by ransomware activities may face potential sanctions risks. Among other things, the advisory encourages financial institutions and other companies that engage with victims of ransomware attacks to implement risk-based compliance programs “to mitigate exposure to sanctions-related violations,” and to report such attacks to law enforcement. These sanctions compliance programs, OFAC emphasizes, “should account for the risk that a ransomware payment may involve [a specially designated national] or blocked person, or a comprehensively embargoed jurisdiction.” OFAC also cautions companies to consider whether they also need to comply with FinCEN’s regulatory obligations. Furthermore, the advisory provides U.S. government resources for reporting ransomware attacks, as well as guidance on factors OFAC generally considers when determining an appropriate enforcement response to an apparent violation.
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