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Cybersecurity

Behind the Crypto Broker Accused of Enabling Ransomware Hackers

  • Suex is first digital currency exchange sanctioned by U.S.
  • Platforms can allow cyber gangs to launder illicit proceeds
Tech cables

Photographer: Bloomberg

A cryptocurrency broker that the Biden administration considers a key cog in the recent ransomware epidemic is legally registered in the Czech Republic but doesn’t appear to have an office there. It may be operating out of Moscow’s tallest skyscraper despite its not being listed at the address. It earned the distinction last month of being the first crypto exchange to be blacklisted by the U.S. as governments try to stem further attacks. And while it denies any part in the recent spate of cyber crimes, experts say it’s a prime example of a shadowy corner of the industry that has allowed hackers to thrive by giving them the means to launder millions of dollars in illicit digital proceeds through “nested” middlemen that tap larger exchanges to process transactions.

Suex OTC, a virtual currency exchange, is a transactions platform that allows cryptocurrency traders to buy and sell digital coins. It is accused by the U.S. of mixing legitimate digital currency trades with illegal transfers from ransomware gangs, allowing them to launder profits from the kind of attacks that have crippled hospitals, businesses, school districts and even a major U.S. fuel pipeline. The U.S. Treasury Department alleges that Suex has played an integral role helping criminal hackers clean and cash out their loot, mostly Bitcoin paid by ransomware victims, before converting it to a traditional currency.