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Durbin Questions DOJ and FBI on Combatting Ransomware Attacks

WASHINGTON – During today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “America Under Cyber Siege: Preventing and Responding to Ransomware Attacks,” U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Richard Downing, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Division about the role of cryptocurrency in ransomware attacks. 

“Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin are the coin of the realm when it comes to ransomware. What can we do – what specific laws should we enact in the United States to be responsive to this and diminish the role of cryptocurrency?” Durbin said.

Downing said that cryptocurrency has fueled the rise in ransomware crime because it is often anonymous and hard to pull back once transferred to the criminals. Downing said it is important to continue to enforce the laws already on the books to deter these types of large financial transactions without disclosure. Durbin said it might be time to increase regulation of cryptocurrencies.

Durbin also asked about the effect that ransomware or cybersecurity insurance policies have on whether or not an entity ends up paying criminals the amount of money they are demanding.  The FBI discourages victims of ransomware attacks from paying ransoms, because there is no guarantee the business or individual will regain access to the data and because paying a ransom incentivizes future ransomware attacks.

Bryan Vorndran, Assistant Director of the Cyber Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that often times, when a company or entity is negotiating on whether or not to pay the ransom demanded in these cyberattacks, a lot depends on whether they hold an insurance policy for ransomware attacks.

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here for TV Stations.