The U.S. Department of Justice announced on November 7th, that it has seized more than $3.36 billion worth of Bitcoin as part of an investigation into fraud involving the Silk Road dark web marketplace. This announcement displays federal interest and the capacity to recover cryptocurrency that is involved with cybercrime.
The DOJ seized 50,676 Bitcoin a year ago, worth over $3.36 billion at the time, the largest cryptocurrency seizure ever. While the value of Bitcoin has significantly decreased over the last year, the seized amount is still worth approximately $1.05 Billion. It was also announced that James Zhong, the hacker responsible for the 2012 incident where 50,000 Bitcoin were illegally accessed, finally pled guilty to committing wire fraud in 2012 earlier this year.
This is not the first time the federal government has recovered cryptocurrency payments linked to criminal activity. In August 2020, ransomware group REvil attempted to auction off data stolen from manufacturing giant JBS USA after successfully encrypting the company’s servers.
REvil demanded a $22.5 million ransom paid in cryptocurrency or else it would release sensitive information about JBS’s employees, clients, and business operations to the public. A week later, after multiple counter-offers, JBS agreed to pay $11 million worth of Bitcoin. the Department of Justice announced that it had seized 63.7 of the 75 Bitcoin paid by JBS to REvil, worth approximately $2.1 million at the time but now worth around $664,000.
The seizing of cryptocurrency by federal authorities highlights both the government’s capability to track and recover cryptocurrency payments made as part of criminal activity as well as its increasing interest in doing so. As more businesses are targeted by ransomware gangs and other cybercriminals, we can expect the feds to continue their efforts to recover cryptocurrency payments made as part of these crimes.