SAN FRANCISCO – Government and industry officials facing a ransomware epidemic in which hackers freeze a target’s computers and demand a payout are betting on cryptocurrency regulation as the key to fighting the scourge, sources linked to the work of a public-private companies are familiar with task force said.

In a report on Thursday, the group of experts is expected to call for a far more aggressive persecution of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. While these have gained greater acceptance with investors over the past year, they remain the lifeblood of ransomware operators and other criminals with little risk of law enforcement in much of the world.

Ransomware gangs raised nearly $ 350 million last year, three times more than in 2019, two task force members wrote this week. Corporations, government agencies, hospitals, and school systems are among the victims of ransomware groups, some of which have been on friendly terms with nation-states such as North Korea and Russia, according to US officials.

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