The U.S. Senate is set to investigate crypto’s use in ransomware on multiple fronts as regulators globally continue to scrutinize digital assets.
On Tuesday, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he would investigate how “cryptocurrency can embolden cybercriminals” and what the federal government can do to fight back.
Coming less than a week after the Senate Judiciary Committee said it would hold its own ransomware hearing, the dual probes speak to the heightened attention crypto is facing from U.S. lawmakers.
Peters’ probe is notable because of its focus on cryptocurrency, instead of ransomware more generally. Lawmakers seldom train their investigative sights on crypto specifically. But the recent tsunami of ransomware attacks against everything from pipelines to meatpackers has changed that.
Attacks were up 150% in 2020 with $412 million in ransoms paid, Peters said, adding that an ongoing July attack is holding 200 corporate networks hostage for $70 million.
“The increased use of cryptocurrencies as the preferred method of payment in ransomware attacks shows that cybercriminals believe they can commit attacks without being held accountable,” Peters said in a statement.
Even so, Peters’ investigation appears to be leaving room for a different crypto narrative.
The investigation will examine current oversight efforts and regulations related to virtual currencies. It will also make recommendations into how lawmakers and federal agencies can ensure all Americans can safely benefit from access to cryptocurrencies, and that they are not providing an incentive for criminal organizations and foreign adversaries to continue assaulting American networks and communities nationally.