- Lo Furneaux
Discussing Ransomware & Cryptocurrency at the House of Commons
Updated: May 2
Earlier this week, our co-founder & CEO Aidan Larkin was invited to give evidence on the links between cryptocurrency and ransomware at the House of Commons Joint Committee on National Security Strategy
He was joined on the panel by Emily Taylor, the CEO of Oxford Information Labs and Associate Fellow at Chatham House; Jamie MacColl, a Research Fellow in Cyber Threats and Cyber Security at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI); and John Carlin, a Partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and a former acting US deputy attorney general.
During the hearing, Aidan testified that the main barriers to identifying and disrupting the activities of ransomware hackers are the lack of resources, support and education for law enforcement agencies. He highlighted the high rate of cryptocurrency adoption in the UK, pointing out that the amount of high-value seizures is much lower than expected, despite recent notable seizures by the Metropolitan Police and the National Crime Agency.
Due to the lack of traditional geographic borders in ransomware attacks, all four experts routinely emphasized the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors and international knowledge sharing.
When asked if the threat of ransomware should be treated as a national security threat, the overall consensus amongst the expert witnesses was succinctly put by Jamie MacColl, who explained that although:
“[Ransomware attacks] are experienced as a criminal issue by the victims, the cumulative effects of incidents creates a scale of harm at a societal level that presents a national security threat.”
John Carlin reemphasised the need for a blended approach between the public and private sectors; highlighting that criminal attacks rarely have a single purpose, often combining their desire for profit with state-sponsored disruption.
After discussing the impacts of international and domestic incidents such as the war in Ukraine, the rapid digitisation of the ‘global south’ and the colonial pipeline attack in the US on the worldwide approach towards the threat of ransomware; the panel took a look at the successful approach of international taskforce groups such as the White House Counter Ransomware Initiative.
Despite some reservations, the panel unanimously agreed that these types of initiatives were likely to be successful in their approach. As Aidan explains:
“Ransomware enabled with crypto is a very attractive avenue for illicit activity. If we can target the ill-gotten gains of criminals, then they’re less motivated to use this type of avenue.”
The session concluded with the expert witnesses sharing their views on recent changes to investigation techniques and regulatory frameworks that emphasise the long-term infiltration and disruption of larger cybercrime groups.
Aidan was honoured to be invited to discuss global asset recovery issues at the House of Commons:
“It was humbling to be asked to give evidence at the Houses of Parliament for the House of Commons Joint Committee on National Security Strategy regarding Ransomware and the domestic and international response to tackling it.”
“Disrupting criminals and depriving them of ill-gotten gains takes away many of the motives and it's great to see Asset Recovery being elevated as a strategic tool in tackling this problem. I’m hugely proud of the work of our team and partners in this sector, to warrant this invitation and share my thoughts.”
“It was a memorable experience, to say the least, and a pleasure to share a seat alongside John Carlin, Emily Taylor and Jamie MacColl. Victims of crimes involving digital assets need more support and enabling law enforcement with the tools and training necessary is key to that.”
You can watch the full recording of the session on the Parliament TV website.
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