The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned ten people from Iran. Moreover, two organizations were also sanctioned for their involvement in ransomware and other illegal cyber actions. They also blacklisted Bitcoin addresses linked to the suspects, who are said to be members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
According to Treasury officials, the Iranian group’s American targets included a children’s hospital, a town in New Jersey, a small electric utility firm, and a variety of other entities. The individuals have been identified as employees or associates of Najee Technology Hooshmand Fater LLC and Afkar System Yazd Company.
According to the Treasury, three people, Mansour Ahmadi, Ahmad Khatibi Aghda, and Amir Hossein Nikaeen Ravari, have been charged with ransomware attacks targeting many American businesses and organizations. The department also imposed sanctions and blocked Bitcoin wallet addresses associated with a ransomware group linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Using software vulnerabilities, hackers can lock down an entire network or computer system and hold access hostage until a ransom is paid. Despite the seeming transparency of blockchain networks like Bitcoin, cryptocurrency transfers can be more difficult to trace than traditional digital payment systems.
2/ As expected, OFAC reiterates that US persons cannot engage with TC. But if someone still has their funds in TC from prior to the designation, they can apply for a license and OFAC will likely respond favorably. While not a surprise, the clarification is notable.
— Chainalysis (@chainalysis) September 13, 2022
Americans are prohibited from interacting with the alleged attackers or the companies they manage, including Bitcoin wallet addresses linked to the names of their suspected owners. OFAC sanctioned seven Bitcoin (BTC) addresses linked to two Iranian citizens, Ahmad Khatibi Aghada and Amir Hossein Nikaeed Ravari.
What happens when CEXs, the biggest PoS validators, start sanctioning ETH staking addresses?
On August 8, OFAC updated its list of Specially Designated Nationals to include more than 40 crypto addresses associated with the problematic mixer Tornado Cash. The Treasury also claims that Tornado Cash was used to launder money, including payments made with stolen cryptocurrency. That is why they approved the Ethereum-based Tornado Cash mixer.
Furthermore, now that OFAC has published a list of 7 BTC addresses associated with Iranian nationals, many speculate that it may also sanction proof-of-stake mechanisms such as Ethereum. If they can persuade the largest PoS validators, the CEXs, to begin sanctioning addresses receiving ETH staking rewards and fees, Ethereum’s censorship resistance will improve.
The US Treasury Department’s financial regulators shocked the crypto community by sanctioning the Ethereum-based Tornado Cash mixer only three weeks before the Merge. Even though many developers and node operators still believed they needed to protect themselves by autonomously censoring Tornado Cash transactions.
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