Biden adviser says focus on bitcoin’s role in cyber attacks must be ‘priority’ for G7

Sullivan: Ransomware attacks stressed necessity of cyber defenses

John Bowden
Monday 07 June 2021 19:03 BST
President Joe Biden speaks in Rehobeth, Delaware.
President Joe Biden speaks in Rehobeth, Delaware. (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
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President Joe Biden’s national security adviser said Monday that cybersecurity and examining the role of cryptocurrency in cyberattacks must be a “priority” for NATO and countries in the Group of 7 (G7) ahead of the two organizations’ summits in Europe next month.

Jake Sullivan told reporters at at White House news briefing that responding to ransomware attacks, “particularly as they relate to critical infrastructure,” have “got to be a priority” for the US and its allies going forward.

His comments come after a spree of ransomware cyberattacks targeting US-based entities including the Colonial Pipeline Company, the latter of which resulted in gas shortages along the Eastern Seaboard last month. Experts have linked the attacks to criminal groups believed to be operating out of Russia.

Commenting on those attacks, Sullivan noted that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies often lie “at the core” of ransomware attacks and other transactions involving hacker groups.

Those attacks believed to have originated from Russian-based groups will be on the agenda for Mr Biden’s meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in upcoming days, Mr Sullivan added Monday, while stressing that meeting face-to-face with the Russian leader was important for Mr Biden despite an understanding that Mr Putin’s words could not always be trusted.

The comments relating to a possible crackdown on Bitcoin and its role in criminal activities comes the same day that former President Donald Trump referred to the cryptocurrency as a “scam” during a morning interview with the Fox Business Network.

They also come following a report from CNBC last week indicating that the Biden administration was putting a focus on anti-corruption efforts at the center of its foreign policy platform, while a Biden administration official stressed specifically that cryptocurrency was part of that plan.

“We are looking at crypto as a means of illicit finance,” the official told CNBC, adding, “but by no means are these new steps limited to new technologies like crypto.”

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