While it may not sound like positive news, the fact that the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned two Bitcoin addresses is a positive step for the regulation of crypto, as it shows the governments believe they have the tools to handle this situation.
It is an unprecedented move for cryptocurrency addresses to be added to this sanction list, which at one stage also listed Osama Bin Laden, but even in the unprecedented move, there has been no new legislation needed to make this happen.
What this means is that the US government believes it has the tools at its disposal to enforce the law over dodgy Bitcoin addresses and that it is ready to put its foot down and bring under scrutiny problematic Bitcoin addresses, such as those that could be funding terrorism.
Stepping in, and stepping up
The sanctioning of the BTC addresses was a move against against two Iran-based individuals, Ali Khorashadizadeh and Mohammad Ghorbaniyan. These two individuals helped exchange Bitcoin ransom payments into Iranian rial on behalf of Iranian malicious cyber actors involved with the SamSam ransomware scheme, which damaged over 200 known victims.
“The 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,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker.
Regulation ready to tackle anonymous and transparent addresses
Cryptocurrency lawyer Marco Santori explains in a Twitter thread why this move from OFAC is a positive one on behalf of regulators and law enforcers trying to get cryptocurrencies under control.
1/ Today, the US Department of the Treasury, through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took the historic step of adding two Bitcoin addresses to its list of sanctioned parties. In this thread, I'll break down what that means.— Marco Santori (@msantoriESQ) November 28, 2018
His summation is that the “OFAC believes, today, that it has the tools it needs to enforce the law. It didn't ask for more legislation, nor did it didn't propose new prohibitions. The Treasury is fighting crypto bad guys using the tools already at its disposal,” Santori explains.
This is clearly an important standpoint for this department of US legal enforcement. If it was that the OFAC had to enact new laws in order to combat these dodgy Bitcoin addresses, it would not only be a slow process, but potentially a less effective one.
By making this move, OFAC has essentially opened its legal interpretation to include these digital asset addresses, and they feel that they can handle controlling how they operate despite their quasi-anonymous nature.
What can actually be done?
What does need to be asked, though, is what can the OFAC actually do about these addresses? As it stands currently, they have simply publicised two addresses, and as Santori predicts, will probably see random, anonymous individuals sending BTC to them as a joke.
And, based on the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency sending, it is very possible that anyone sending BTC to these sanctioned addresses will remain hidden, and more so, the lack of centralised control means that the addresses can probably still withdraw the BTC and turn it into useful funding.
11/ I know it's going to happen, so, will someone who's got this address on watch be so kind as to at me when trolls start sending BTC there?— Marco Santori (@msantoriESQ) November 28, 2018