US and UK Clamp Down on Trickbot Ransomware Group Behind $833M in Extortions

In a joint effort to curb cybercrime, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the U.K. HM Treasury Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) have sanctioned eleven additional members of the Russia-based ransomware group, Trickbot. This move comes after the two nations had previously sanctioned seven members of the same group earlier this year, according to Chainalysis.

Among those sanctioned are prominent figures like Maksim Galochkin, known by the alias “Bentley,” Maksim Rudenskiy, also referred to as “Buza,” “Silver,” or “Binman,” and Mikhail Tsarev, or “Mango.”

Ransomware attacks have been on the rise, with Chainalysis data indicating that from January to June this year, cybercriminals extorted at least $449.1 million. Trickbot, in particular, has been linked to ransomware strains such as Ryuk, Conti, Diavol, and Karakurt, which collectively account for cryptocurrency extortions worth approximately $833 million.

Rob Jones, Director General of Operations at the National Crime Agency, commented on the sanctions, stating,

These sanctions are a continuation of our campaign against international cyber criminals.

He emphasized the challenges and opportunities cryptocurrencies present in the fight against cybercrime.

First identified in 2016, Trickbot Group has emerged as one of the top crypto-earning cybercrime organizations, second only to North Korea’s Lazarus Group. As reported by Blockchain.News, recently the FBI has detected blockchain activities linked to the theft of significant cryptocurrency by North Korea’s TraderTraitor group, Lazarus Group, and APT38, with the agency suspecting North Korea may liquidate the over $40 million bitcoin.

The group’s ties to Russian intelligence services and collaboration with other cybercrime entities have been well-documented. Their ransomware strains have compromised millions of devices globally, including critical infrastructure like hospitals.

The individuals sanctioned by OFSI and OFAC include Andrey Zhuykov, Maksim Galochkin, Maksim Rudenskiy, Mikhail Tsarev, Dmitry Putilin, Maksim Khaliullin, Sergey Loguntsov, Alexander Mozhaev, Vadym Valiakhmetov, Artem Kurov, and Mikhail Chernov.

Chainalysis has played a pivotal role in identifying cryptocurrency wallets linked to these sanctioned individuals, aiding in the broader effort to disrupt the operations of cybercrime groups like Trickbot.

The collaborative efforts between the U.S. and U.K. authorities underscore a global commitment to combat the challenges posed by cybercrime in an era increasingly dominated by blockchain technology.

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US Crypto Crackdown Could Push Industry to Hong Kong

The cryptocurrency industry has been at the forefront of technological innovation for quite some time, and the United States has been a leader in the sector. However, recent US government actions toward cryptocurrency regulation have raised concerns for some about the future of the industry in the country. While the US has been adopting a regulation-by-enforcement approach, there is a growing feeling among some that a significant amount of companies, developers, and investors will soon flock elsewhere to work in friendlier environments.

Kaiko’s CEO, Ambre Soubiran, recently spoke to The Wall Street Journal and suggested that the recent crackdown on crypto in the US will inadvertently help Hong Kong in its goal of becoming a major crypto hub. She noted that “The U.S. being more stringent these days than ever on crypto and Hong Kong regulating in a more favorable way…is going to clearly shift the center of gravity of crypto assets trading and investments more towards Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong has been moving in a different direction, with the government initially outlining plans in January 2023 to become a crypto hub by rolling out progressive regulation to support high-quality crypto and fintech firms. The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) proposed a crypto licensing regime on Feb. 20, aiming to provide consumer protections without stifling innovation. According to a March 20 speech from Hong Kong’s Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christian Hu, over 80 virtual asset-related firms have expressed interest in setting up shop there, and 23 crypto firms have already indicated that “they planned to establish their presence.”

Bloomberg reported on March 28 that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and SFA are set to hold a joint meeting on April 28 to help crypto firms set up domestic banking partnerships. Chinese banks, such as Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, the Bank of Communications, and the Bank of China, have reportedly started offering banking services to crypto firms in Hong Kong or made inquiries with crypto firms.

Soubiran also revealed in mid-March that Kaiko is looking to relocate the headquarters of its Asian-Pacific unit from Singapore to Hong Kong in response to the country’s friendly crypto stance. “What we’re seeing is a clear support for more clarity on the regulatory framework in Hong Kong,” she told Bloomberg in an interview, adding that “while we’re seeing an increased attractivity of Hong Kong in the region, we are relocating.”

The US government has become increasingly aggressive toward crypto since the collapse of FTX in November 2022, with Senator Elizabeth Warren even recently stating that they are building an “anti-crypto army.” However, the industry’s “center of gravity” could soon shift toward Hong Kong, as it rolls out progressive regulation and attracts more virtual asset-related firms to establish a presence there.


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US Crypto Holders Trust Banks and Exchanges for Custody

A recent survey conducted by Paxos has shown that American crypto holders still trust intermediaries such as banks, crypto exchanges, and mobile payment apps to hold their digital assets. The survey, which was conducted in January, aimed to understand how the crypto winter and large industry fallouts in 2022 affected consumer behavior and confidence in the crypto ecosystem.

Despite the volatile nature of the crypto industry in 2022, including the bankruptcies of FTX and Alameda Research, the survey found that 89% of respondents still trusted intermediaries to hold their crypto assets. This is a significant finding, given the high-profile collapses and poor risk management practices seen in several crypto companies.

Interestingly, the survey also found that there was an increasing desire among consumers to buy Bitcoin, Ether, and other digital assets from traditional banks. The survey revealed that 75% of respondents were likely or very likely to purchase crypto from their primary bank if it were offered, a 12% increase from the year before. Furthermore, 45% of respondents reported they would be encouraged to invest more in crypto if there was more mainstream adoption by banks and other financial institutions.

According to Paxos, there is a significant untapped opportunity for banks if they expanded their offerings to include digital assets. Offering these services would satisfy increasing demand and result in higher engagement. However, the survey was conducted before more recent crypto headwinds, such as the bankruptcy of crypto lender Genesis, the crackdown on Binance USD (BUSD) involving Paxos, and the financial uncertainty of crypto bank Silvergate Capital.

The survey was conducted on 5,000 participants who were over 18 years old, lived in the United States, had a total household income greater than $50,000, and had purchased cryptocurrency within the last three years. Despite the volatile 2022 crypto landscape, the survey shows that consumers didn’t lose faith in their crypto investments, underlining the long-term confidence of those participating in crypto markets.


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Revolut Adds 29 New Tokens to Serve Clients in US

British fintech giant Revolut is deepening its foothold in the United States and has announced the addition of 29 new tokens to serve its customers.


The tokens, which include Avalanche (AVAX), Solana (SOL), and Dogecoin (DOGE), are an avenue for the company to compete for the growing market share in the country.

“Today, we’ve more than quadrupled our token portfolio to give our customers access to a much more diverse crypto offering,” Revolut global business head for crypto Mazen Eljundi said in the announcement, adding that exchange services on its platform are commission-free up to $200,000 a month.

Revolut is exploring avenues to compete with its counterparts in the US, including Gemini and Kraken, amongst others. The trading firm is also mulling the plans to add more tokens to the suite should it get the needed greenlight from the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS).

To offer more valued added services in the long run, Revolut also hopes to launch staking services to complete its generous no-commission trading offering.

Revolut is primarily a fintech firm but is growing strategically as a crypto payments firm. Besides its ambitious push into the US, the firm announced the launch of its cryptocurrency exchange offshoot in Singapore earlier in August. The Singapore move came after the firm tapped the in-principle approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

As part of its entry into new markets, education and proper awareness are crucial to the company as it looks to offer its services in a socially responsible way.

“We plan to provide educational features in the coming months to help customers better understand the trends and risks associated with cryptocurrency,” said Deepak Khanna, head of wealth and trading at Revolut Singapore, “We believe the regulatory strengths in Singapore and proactive industry engagement are key to serving clients with the highest standards.”

In complement, the firm launched the Learn and Earn campaign featuring Polkadot in July and it is open to all users.

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House Stablecoin Bill to Seek Two-year Ban on Issuing New Algorithmic Stablecoins

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that legislation to regulate stablecoins being drafted in the U.S. House of Representatives would impose a two-year ban on new algorithmic stablecoins similar to TerraUSD (UST).

The latest version of the act defines “endogenously collateralized stablecoins” and makes it illegal to issue or create such stablecoins.

The definition would apply to publicly selling stablecoins that are capable of being exchanged, redeemed, or repurchased for a fixed amount of monetary value and that maintain their fixed price solely on the value of another digital asset from the same creator.

The bill provides a two-year grace period for stablecoin operators not collateralized by cash or highly liquid assets such as U.S. Treasuries to be approved after changing their business model.

The bill would also prohibit mixed management of client funds and keys with those of the stablecoin issuer, which, in theory, means that customers will be able to more easily get back their assets if the stablecoin issuer goes bankrupt.

In addition to addressing Terra’s problems, the bill would allow banks and non-banks to issue stablecoins, regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The bill also highlights concerns over whether the definition includes stablecoins such as Synthetix USD (SUSD). Synthetix USD is currently collateralized with the native asset of the same protocol in the SNX token. Other algorithmic stablecoins with similar structures include BitUSD, backed by BitShares (BTS).

Issuing stablecoins without the approval of these regulators could be convicted by up to five years in prison and a $1 million fine. The legislation would direct the Fed to establish a process for making decisions on applications from non-bank issuers.

The draft legislation would authorize the U.S. Treasury Department to research UST-like stablecoins in consultation with the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and House committees could vote on the legislation as early as next week.

In mid-June, the Terra stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) was off the $1 level it was supposed to hold, trading at $0.006, losing its peg to the U.S. dollar resulting in tens of billions of dollars in lost value.

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U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Council to Discuss Digital Asset Regulation Next Week

The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), chaired by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, will meet on September 23 to discuss regulatory loopholes in digital currencies and the potential risks they pose.

Previously, the annual report released by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Stability Oversight Committee (FSOC) mentioned digital assets as one of the emerging innovations in the U.S. financial ecosystem and a potential threat to its stability.

The FSOC’s mission is to identify “new threats to the stability of the U.S. financial system,” noting that financial innovation in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and stablecoins “could provide consumer and consumer benefits by addressing unmet or emerging needs or reducing costs. Businesses bring great benefits”, but they also create risks and uncertainties.

Warren also highlighted key risks posed by cryptocurrencies, including a lack of transparency from hedge funds, threats from stablecoins, and the use of digital currencies in cyberattacks.

FSOC calls for “continued coordination between federal and state financial regulators to support responsible financial innovation and competitiveness, promote a consistent regulatory approach, and identify and address potential risks arising from such innovation.”

Last fall, the U.S. Financial Markets Working Group recommended that the FSOC should be given the power to regulate stablecoins if Congress fails to pass stablecoin regulation legislation.

Digital currencies are becoming the first asset to be looked at by U.S. regulators, especially those charged with overseeing them. With more attention, perhaps the crypto ecosystem will get more embrace from U.S. regulators, a desire of many industry giants.

U.S. President Joe Biden established a new framework on September 17 on how cryptocurrencies are traded and regulated in the U.S. – focusing on improving cryptocurrencies to perform seamless transactions and reduce what can happen with digital assets for investors and the crypto space in general crime.

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Virginia Pension Fund Enters Crypto Lending Space to Enhance Returns

Fairfax County Retirements Systems, a $6.8 billion Virginia pension fund, seeks to expand its scope by entering the crypto lending market to boost its returns, according to Financial Times. 

This quest became a reality after the board of trustees gave the pension fund the greenlight to start investments in yield farming, whereby investors lend out their digital assets to crypto projects. In return, they attain a fixed stream of income. 

Katherine Molnar, the chief investment officer of the Fairfax County Police Officers Retirement System, pointed out:

“Some of the yields that you’re able to achieve in a yield farming strategy are really attractive because some of the people have stepped back from that space.”

It seems the Fairfax County Retirements Systems intends to fill the void left by various leading crypto lenders, with some filing for bankruptcy and others facing an uncertain future. 

For instance, cryptocurrency hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC) filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy last month. The hedge fund’s woes were ignited by the collapse of LUNA-UST, given that it had a significant amount of exposure, Blockchain.News reported. Other embattled crypto lenders include Voyager and Celsius Network. 

Fairfax County Retirements Systems is committed to entering this sector because it has already placed $35 million each at VanEck’s new finance income fund and Parataxis Capital’s digital yield fund. This move will be instrumental in providing investors with income through short-term lending arrangements with crypto assets.

Andrew Spellar, investment chief for Fairfax County Employees, noted:

“We started in venture capital and private equity. But once we got more comfortable in the space, we started to think a bit broader about how we might be able to use strategies in digital assets in other parts of the portfolio.”

Meanwhile, different crypto sectors continue attracting more players. For instance, Philcoin, a philanthropic blockchain movement, recently launched a staking mechanism enabling users to donate part of their earnings to charity. 

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US Senate Bill Proposes to Empower CFTC to Oversight Tokens & Digital Assets

On Wednesday, a group of Democratic and Republican members on the Senate Agriculture Committee introduced a bill that aims to give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) authority over the markets for Bitcoin and Ether, as well as any other digital assets that are considered to be commodities.

Senators who sponsored the bill include U.S Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, and Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas.

The lawmakers said the bill would offer much required regulatory clarity to the cryptocurrency market by placing a major portion of its oversight under a single regulator.

The new bill seeks to give the CFTC direct oversight of cryptocurrencies that qualify as “digital commodities.”

It would also require firms offering crypto platforms to register with the CFTC, including exchanges, custodians, and brokers.

“One in five Americans have used or traded digital assets — but these markets lack the transparency and accountability that they expect from our financial system. Too often, this puts Americans’ hard-earned money at risk,” stated Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the CFTC.

Such registration would come with requirements from the CFTC to ensure that crypto companies maintain adequate financial resources, avoid conflicts of interest, prevent abusive trading practices, maintain fair pricin, and cybersecurity protections, including other consumer protection measures.

The bill further acknowledged other financial watchdogs have a role in regulating cryptocurrencies that are not commodities but function more like securities or other payment methods.

Stabenow told media journalists that the bill is not designed to cover the entire crypto market or undermine the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ‘s ability to oversee digital assets that function more like securities.

“We’re not defining what a security is. I have great confidence in Chairman Gensler to be able to use his authorities,” she elaborated.

The bill’s focus on Bitcoin and Ether as commodities fits with the views of SEC boss Gary Gensler, who in the recent past said most other cryptocurrencies are likely to be securities.

While Stabenow and Boozman stated that they wanted to move ahead with the bill as quickly as possible, they did not mention a precise timeline. The window for legislative action will come to an end before the November midterm elections.

Efforts Towards Crypto Regulation

The latest bill follows other lists of legislation proposed in the recent past to clarify the rules surrounding cryptocurrencies.

In June, as reported by Blockchain. News, U.S. Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) proposed a bipartisan cryptocurrency regulation bill that aimed to give the digital assets market much-needed definitions that would enable a regulatory framework to fall into place.

The proposed bipartisan Senate bill set the stage for establishing definitions for digital assets. The bill further proposed to create an advisory committee to develop guiding principles and to give regulatory authority for digital assets to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

In March, the U.S. House of Representatives Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) introduced a bill that proposed the creation of a working group constituted of industry experts and representatives from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to evaluate the current legal and regulatory framework around digital assets in the U.S.

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Iranians Permitted to Trade on Binance, Despite US Imposes Sanctions: Reuters

A recent report from Reuters is yet again indicting Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platform.


The report said the exchange permitted Iranian users to trade on its platform after the United States reimposed sanctions on the country back in 2018. 

According to the authors of the report, as many as 7 Iranians have confirmed that they maintained the use of the Binance platform from the time of the sanction back in August-November 2018 until September last year. Many of those who spoke to Reuters acknowledge the ease of use of the Binance platform which further offers very robust liquidity for a wide range of crypto assets.

Back in 2015, Iran inked a nuclear pact with world dealers making the US and other Western allies taper down some of their sanctions on the country at the time. The US reimposed the sanctions when the withdrawal of the US by former President Donald Trump from the Iranian peace deal. The setback of these sanctions fueled a massive decline in the Iranian economy, and an attractive basis for traders to rely on cryptocurrencies, through the Binance exchange.

Access to the Binance platform by the Iranian traders was cut off around last year September. However, the trading platform according to lawyers who spoke to Reuters stands a risk of being investigated by the US government. Although there is a point of whether the usage of the exchange was primarily focused on users using the trading platform to circumvent the sanctions, a trend that can tell if Binance will go scot-free.

Binance is always in the cross-hairs with the media when it comes to its operational ethics. Reuters has been particularly interested in Binance, as the renowned media outfit said back in June, this year that Binance was used as a conduit for money laundering and has facilitated as much as $2.4 billion in transactions.

Binance has denied these claims as well as other claims flying around with a confirmation that the exchange is renewing its approaches to maintain a healthy relationship with regulators. This is seen in the series of approvals to operate in key economies the firm has received, the latest of which is Spain.

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Tech Experts Urge Regulators to be Sceptical on Digital Currencies Innovation

A group of technology innovators has sent a letter to the United States Congressional Leadership, Committee Chairs, and Ranking Members, urging them to take a critical look at cryptocurrency innovations.


These experts, numbering 26 in total, including Harvard lecturer Bruce Schneier, former Microsoft engineer Miguel de Icaza and principal engineer at Google Cloud, Kelsey Hightower admonished the lawmakers not to listen to stakeholders with a vested interest in the crypto industry who claims the technology is designed for the good of all.

“We write to you urging you to take a critical, sceptical approach toward industry claims that crypto-assets (sometimes called cryptocurrencies, crypto tokens, or web3) are an innovative technology that is unreservedly good,” the letter reads, adding, “We urge you to resist pressure from digital asset industry financiers, lobbyists, and boosters to create a regulatory safe haven for these risky, flawed, and unproven digital financial instruments and to instead take an approach that protects the public interest and ensures technology is deployed in genuine service to the needs of ordinary citizens.”

These experts argued that not everything that can be built should be built and that the history of technology is replete with innovations that started out good but turned out bad in the end. They said the technology is not as novel as the proponents claim they are, adding that the only group of protocols, privacy coins, which offer true anonymity, are a disaster in that they are the right haven for money launderers.

They believe the clamour around blockchain technology is not also worth it in that it promotes only very few real-world use cases. 

Drawing on all these points, experts implored the lawmakers tasked with formulating regulations that bind the crypto ecosystem to “take a truly responsible approach to technological innovation and ensure that individuals in the US and elsewhere are not left vulnerable to predatory finance, fraud, and systemic economic risks in the name of technological potential which does not exist.”

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