The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against two Iran-based Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan. The duo, had allegedly, helped exchange Bitcoin ransom payments obtained by “Iranian malicious cyber actors” involved in the SamSam ransomware scheme, into Iranian rial, according to a press release by OFAC.
Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said, “Treasury is targeting digital currency exchangers who have enabled Iranian cyber actors to profit from extorting digital ransom payments from their victims. As Iran becomes increasingly isolated and desperate for access to U.S. dollars, it is vital that virtual currency exchanges, peer-to-peer exchangers, and other providers of digital currency services harden their networks against these illicit schemes.”
Mandelker added, that the treasury is publishing new cryptocurrency addresses to nab bad actors in the ecosystem.
SamSam, the malicious ransomware scheme has affected numerous institutions, such as hospitals, corporations, universities, government agencies and held over 200 victims’ data hostage for financial gain. In the mid of this heist were the duo who helped the cyber actors exchange digital currency derived from ransom payments into Iranian rial and also deposited the rial into Iranian banks. For that purpose, they used two addresses: 149w62rY42aZBox8fGcmqNsXUzSStKeq8C and 1AjZPMsnmpdK2Rv9KQNfMurTXinscVro9V. Since 2013, these two wallet addresses have been used to process 7,000 transactions.
The press release stated that Wednesday’s action marked the fourth round of U.S. sanctions targeting the Iranian regime this month. Earlier this year, US-imposed economic sanctions saw the country witnessing its worst economic performances in recent years. Its national currency Iranian Rial crashed to its record low level against US Dollar with one USD quoting 44160 Iranian Rial. In the black market, the rate went further higher and was trading on an average of 100,000 Rials for a USD. To circumvent skyrocketing expenses locals started putting their money in gold coins and virtual currencies.
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