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Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco announced the formation of a new FBI team called the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit (VAXU) at this year's annual Munich Cyber Security Conference.

The goal of VAXU is to "combine cryptocurrency experts into one nerve center that can provide equipment, blockchain analysis, virtual asset seizure, and training to the rest of the FBI," according to Monaco.

Read more: HIPAA compliant email: the definitive guide

The creation of the new FBI unit comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had seized $3.6 billion in stolen Bitcoin and charged a New York couple with money laundering and conspiracy. This is the largest financial seizure the DOJ has conducted in its history. 

Cybercriminals are consistently using cryptocurrency as a means to gather ransom from their ransomware victims.

According to one study, cybercriminals held $11 billion in cryptocurrency from known illicit sources by the end of 2021. This is substantially more than in 2020 when they only held $3 billion.

"Ransomware and digital extortion - like many other crimes fueled by cryptocurrency - only work if the bad guys get paid - which means we have to bust their business model," said Monaco in her speech.

Read more: Why health systems must take ransomware protection seriously

Monaco also used her speech to announce an international collaboration to investigate cryptocurrency-related crimes. The International Virtual Currency Initiative will foster responsible regulation and anti-money laundering requirements to combat the abuse of cryptocurrency. 


Healthcare organizations need to protect themselves against ransomware


The launch of VAXU and other cryptocurrency initiatives demonstrates the seriousness of ransomware threats.  31% of global organizations claim that they were a victim of some form of a ransomware attack in 2021.

Ransomware is a lucrative business for cybercriminals, and healthcare organizations need to take proactive steps to protect their sensitive data. Otherwise, they may be faced with an average cost of $9.23 million to respond to a data breach.

Read more: What is Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)?

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