Last week, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a structure within the US Treasury, added two Bitcoin addresses to the sanctions list (the so-called List of Special Categories and Prohibited Persons). The office announced that these wallets are associated with two citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan.
These sanctions, the first of its kind, are part of a campaign conducted by the American authorities to monitor and restrict digital activities, including money laundering and cybercrime.
In addition, OFAC said it would monitor the exchanges that carried out the transactions of sanctioned persons: “We publish the addresses of digital currencies in order to identify the attackers operating in the digital space. The US Treasury intends to monitor Iran and other authoritarian regimes trying to exploit digital currencies and vulnerabilities in cyberspace, and apply customer verification and anti-money laundering laws to prevent them from achieving their criminal goals. ”According to OFAC, the reason for the sanctions was the fact that Khorashadizadeh and Ghorbaniyan were involved in hacker attacks using the SamSam virus.
In addition to the sanctions imposed on Khorashadizadeh and Ghorbaniyan, two other Iranians, Faramarz Shahi Sawandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri, were formally accused by the US authorities of conspiring to fraud money transfers, for deliberately damaging computers and illegal requirements related to protected computers.
The SamSam virus has infected more than 200 targets, including hospitals, corporations, universities, and government services.
In an interview with reporters, Ghorbaniyan said: “I did not know that the SamSam virus was associated with bitcoins, which I received from these two clients. I swear I’m still not sure whether these people really stand behind the crimes committed by SamSam. I comply with the laws on the verification of the identity of clients and I have no reason to suspect my clients if they pass the identity verification procedure. ”
The measure adopted by the US Treasury creates an important precedent for the cryptocurrency sector.
While Iran is under pressure from a number of US economic sanctions, and Bitcoin is becoming more common in this country, it is quite possible that we are talking about a whole series of such restrictive measures. And the consequences for exchanges that have been implicated in (presumably) crimes may be deplorable.
Segal Mandelker, head of the department for combating the financing of terrorism and financial intelligence of the Treasury, explains: “As Iran grows more isolated and its demand for US dollars grows, it is important that cryptocurrency exchanges, peer-to-peer platforms and other cryptocurrency services providers secured their networks from these criminal schemes. ”
Apart from the fact that they are trying to stop illegal Bitcoin transactions, the authorities are also looking for ways to control the “confidential” Monero and Zcash coins. According to law enforcement officers, the “confidential” character makes them a convenient tool in the hands of criminals.
The media reports that the US Department of National Security is now carrying the idea of creating a tool that will allow it to track and identify users of private coins – just like Chainalysis did with the bitcoin blockchain.