Bitcoin has been like a dream that has come true for people involved in criminal activity and cyber attacks. The complete anonymity with regards to tracking people dealing in the cryptocurrency makes it the ideal currency of choice for hackers.
During the last few years, hackers involved in major cybersecurity breach demanded money to be paid in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. As the money is deposited into a wallet that has an IP address rather than a name, it is near impossible to track the funds when they are gone.
While the price of cryptocurrencies was rising, it was a good option for hackers to get their ransom money delivered in Bitcoin. Hackers who would get even a few Bitcoins deposited into their accounts could hope to sell it off at a higher price later on.
However, things haven’t been going too well for cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin in the past few months. Bitcoin has fallen from the peak value of $19,600 in December to just below $9,000 right now. The fluctuations, especially the drop in value has made the coin lose its charm among the hacker community.
Hackers Drop Their Bitcoin Demands
Researchers at the cybersecurity from Proofpoint reported some interesting trends in Bitcoin. They noted that payment demands in Bitcoin have dropped by more than 70% from hackers and cyber criminals. Hackers are now more likely to demand dollars or a local currency for unlocking a victim’s data after a ransomware attack.
Ransomware hackers are smart criminals. They prefer to charge their victims an amount that they believe the victim would be able to pay. Ransomware hackers even offer discounts to their victims when the hack into the system of a resident from a developing nation, compared to the amount they charge when hacking someone from a developed country.
A highly volatile Bitcoin can mess this strategy. While rising Bitcoin prices are good for investors who are holding on to the currency, they can be a headache for someone trying to price their product or service in Bitcoin.
Proofpoint noted that Sigma was the first ransomware strain that shifted back from Bitcoin when it first demanded ransom to be paid in U.S. dollars.
Bitcoin Dropped By the Majority of Hackers
Researchers found that more than 65% of ransomware strains seen these days demand payment in normal currencies from around the world. The research did not however that the actual transfer of the money be made through a Bitcoin wallet.
Making demand of money in actual fiat currency, even if the exchange takes place over a virtual exchange, gives the hackers two benefits.
First, it allows the ransom hacker to maintain pricing stability. Asking someone for 1 BTC could be problematic where the price of the currency jumps from $10,000 to $13,000 in a matter of days. Asking a victim for $10,000 means the risk or reward of price fluctuation is assumed by the hacker.
Second, making the exchange over the Bitcoin protocol still allows the hacker to maintain complete anonymity.
Bitcoin may not be the denomination used for making ransom demands, but it is still widely used because of the anonymity that it allows cyber attackers.