During her testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 4, Senator Elizabeth Warren emphasized how cryptocurrency has become the preferred method for countries to evade sanctions, fund weapons programs, support spying, and promote cyber attacks. Warren noted that although much cryptocurrency-related crime is hidden, more than $20 billion in illicit transactions took place in 2022. This estimate aligns with recent data from Chainalysis. Warren further highlighted that North Korea and Russia moved at least $8 billion through cryptocurrency. The UN Security Council also stated that North Korea uses stolen cryptocurrency to fund nuclear weapons programs.
Leading Ransomware Groups Operated by Russian Actors
Warren also stated that Binance handled $8 billion of Iranian crypto transactions since 2018, which include a portion of crypto earned by the country’s largest Bitcoin mining operation run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Additionally, Warren pointed out that leading ransomware groups are believed to be operated by Russian actors, and virtually 100% of ransomware payments are conducted in cryptocurrency. Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines responded to Warren’s inquiry by stating that cryptocurrency not only contributes to North Korea’s weapons development but also threatens network security.
Warren and Senator Roger Marshall plan to reintroduce a bill that aims to increase regulation of crypto-created crime. Warren clarified that this bill is different from securities regulations that aim to protect investors from fraud. Warren has been a vocal critic of cryptocurrency for some time now. In late March, she stated that her re-election campaign would involve “building an anti-crypto army.” She previously attempted to advance a crypto regulation bill in December 2022.
In conclusion, Warren’s testimony highlights the need for increased regulation and oversight of cryptocurrency to prevent its use in criminal activities such as sanctions evasion, funding of weapons programs, and ransomware attacks.