How the FBI will investigate cryptocurrency crimes by Chiara Rossi

The FBI has just launched a cryptocurrency crime unit. The Virtual Asset Exploitation Team (Vaxu) will focus on ransomware and technologies that allow the misuse of digital assets

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is launching a unit dedicated to the monitoring and seizure of illicit cryptocurrencies. The move is part of a broader focus shift towards disrupting international criminal networks, the WSJ points out. US Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said last week that the new team, called the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit, will provide blockchain analytics, virtual asset seizure and training to the rest of the Bureau. Specifically, the team will focus on tracking and seizing the cryptocurrency used in the crimes. In fact, in recent months, the US government has prioritized monitoring illicit cryptographic activities. As Techcrunch points out, the FBI is currently monitoring more than 100 different variants of ransomware. A February report released by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis Inc. estimates that around $ 11 billion worth of cryptocurrencies at the end of 2021 had illicit sources. US regulators under the Biden administration have stepped up their scrutiny of the cryptocurrency industry. In fact, ransomware attacks often require bitcoin ransoms. As happened in the series of high-profile cyber attacks that occurred last year on the largest gas pipeline network in the United States Colonial Pipeline. All the details. WHAT THE VAXU UNIT WILL DO The FBI's Vaxu unit will unite experts in cryptocurrency, blockchain analysis and virtual asset seizure in one place to work on investigations and provide training to the rest of the agency. PART OF THE NATIONAL CRYPTOCURRENCY ENFORCEMENT TEAM (NCET) The specialized unit will be part of the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET). It is a division of the United States Department of Justice created in late 2021 to investigate the criminal use of digital assets. The focus is on virtual cryptocurrency exchanges and other technologies that allow the misuse of cryptocurrency by facilitating criminal activity. INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IS FUNDAMENTAL In addition, the Department of Justice has announced an international initiative on virtual currency. Through the latter, it will help law enforcement agencies in other countries improve their techniques and skills in investigating cryptocurrencies, according to prosecutor Monaco. Indeed, the DOJ is taking additional steps to step up its cybercrime work with international law enforcement authorities. A new link for the IT operations of the Department of Justice will be integrated in Europe. He will work with US prosecutors and European officials to expedite cases against major cybercriminals, Monaco added. "International cooperation will not be an afterthought," said the US Deputy Attorney General. AFTER THE BIGGEST BITCOIN SEQUEST EVER DONE The creation of the FBI's "virtual resource exploitation" unit comes after the largest financial hijacking ever carried out by the Department of Justice earlier this month. In early February, the FBI seized over $ 3.6 billion worth of bitcoins. The sum is the result of a hacker attack carried out in 2016 against Bitfinex, the site for the exchange of cryptocurrencies. This was announced by the Justice Department, reporting that the officers also arrested a man and a woman from New York, husband and wife, on charges of money laundering. The case represents the most weighty investigation so far conducted in the context of crimes committed in the new field of cryptocurrencies.