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  • J Markezic and M Bacina

FBI Forms Crack Team to Target Crypto Crime

Updated: May 3

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has announced that it is launching a new team dedicated to blockchain analysis, virtual asset seizure and investigating cryptocurrency related crime.

The announcement follows the largest ever financial seizure by the FBI – USD$3.6 billion from a 2016 exchange hack. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit (VAEU) will be able to:

combine cryptocurrency experts into one nerve center… [and to provide] blockchain analysis, virtual asset seizure, and training to the rest of the FBI.

The VAEU will work in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) own targeted crypto-crime team, the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team.

identify, investigate, support and pursue the department’s cases involving the criminal use of digital assets, with a particular focus on virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, infrastructure providers, and other entities that are enabling the misuse of cryptocurrency and related technologies to commit or facilitate criminal activity.

It is also likely that the VAEU will have a similar remit and powers.

The establishment of the VAEU and NCET will also have ramifications on privacy enforcement and responses to notifiable data breaches. Deputy Attorney General Monaco made it clear that ransomware will also be within the remit of the VAEU and NCET, which will be a step forward for enforcement agencies trying to 'bust [the] business model' for launching these attacks.'

The move towards crypto-crime disruption as opposed to outright prevention is interesting, as measures such as providing decryption keys or seizing servers used for cybercrime attacks could potentially limit the ability for law enforcement agencies to level criminal charges against offenders.

While it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing a 1983 GMC Vandura van with a red-stripe on news reports taking down crypto-criminals, it’s a positive step in increasing accountability within the market and establishes a precedent for a similar arrangements in Australia.


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