United States lawmakers have deliberated on the prospect of banning cryptocurrencies as a solution to the ransomware attacks that have befallen U.S. institutions in the past month, and opinions appear to be mixed.
The largest fuel pipeline in America was brought to a halt in early May when hackers infected the computer networks of Colonial Pipeline. Food packing company JBS was hit with a similar attack. Colonial Pipeline has since paid a reported $4.4 million in ransom.
Senator Mark Warner addressed the matter during NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday, where it was put to him by reporter Chuck Todd that banning cryptocurrencies entirely could curb the growing trend where cyberattackers demand ransom in Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies.
Warner disagreed that crypto should be banned entirely, adding that good things had come out of distributed ledger technology but that its dark underbelly was now being exposed.
“I’ve got a lot of questions about crypto. There were some good things coming out of distributed ledger technology, but we are now seeing some of the dark underbelly […] and that’s why I’m focusing more on transparency,” he said.
Warner claimed certain cryptocurrency “systems” could already be breached by authorities if they so desired. However, he said stopping the technology would simply redirect criminals toward different technologies.
“The truth is there are ways that we can break through some of these systems, but […] if there’s not some transparency of that payment, the bad guys will simply find another way to hide it,” said Warner.
Senator Roy Blunt suggested cryptocurrency shouldn’t be left to run behind the scenes of criminal activities, arguing that cryptocurrency had become the main tool of ransomware attackers, owing to its untraceable nature and ease of use.
“We have a lot of cash requirements in our country, but we haven’t figured out in the country or in the world how to trace cryptocurrency. So, one, fairly easy to do. People almost always pay the ransom. There are very few consequences. And you can’t trace the ransomware — the ransom payment of choice now. And we’ve got to do a better job here,” said Blunt.