The rapid rise in the price of Bitcoin is a driving force behind an increase in cybercrime, new research shows.
As the price of Bitcoin jumped nearly 400% between October 2020 and May 2021, the number of cyber attacks rose 192%, according to Barracuda Networks, which offers products and services to protect against malware attacks.
Cryptocurrency has long been a favorite among cybercriminals. And Bitcoin is historically the benchmark currency.
Colonial Pipeline, which operates a critical pipeline for refined petroleum products, paid ransomware around 75 Bitcoin, or roughly $ 4.4 million at the time of the transaction, to recover the stolen data – although the majority of that ransom was was subsequently recovered by the Ministry of Justice.
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And a major meat supplier, JBS, said it paid hackers $ 11 million in Bitcoin following a ransomware attack.
The increase in cyberattacks cited by Barracuda’s research involved fraudulent emails or “identity theft,” which has always been an effective tool for hackers.
“Instead of masquerading as regular banks, hackers are now masquerading as digital wallets and crypto-related apps with fake security alerts to steal login credentials,” Barracuda said in a statement.
“Cryptocurrency appears to be a perfect currency for criminal activity – it is unregulated, difficult to trace, and its value is increasing. All of this provided the criminals with additional motivation to attack, ”Barracuda said.
Another trend that is playing in the hands of criminals is working from home.
“More data is now created and stored in collaborative applications, and more information is exposed, creating more targets and potential value for criminals,” Barracuda said.
And these days, you don’t have to be a computer genius to launch a ransomware attack. Ransomware-as-a-service – which essentially lets you hire someone to carry out an attack for you – is a hot business on the dark web.
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“In 2019, ransom demands ranged from a few thousand dollars to $ 2 million at the top. By mid-2021, most claims were in the millions, with a significant number in excess of $ 20 million, ”according to Barracuda.
But Bitcoin isn’t the only game in town. Criminals are also turning to other cryptocurrencies, as gangs are exposed through their use of Bitcoin, according to Digital Shadows. The most recent example is the seizure of $ 2.3 million in Bitcoin by the Justice Department of the ransomware group Darkside.
“Bitcoin has often been mistakenly labeled as an anonymous digital currency, but the reality is quite the opposite,” Digital Shadows said in a blog post.
“Anonymity has never been a feature of the currency or the blockchain on which it is based,” the message continues. “The currency’s public ledger records every transaction broadcast over the network, allowing all coins to be traced from their original source to their final destination. “
For example, ransomware group REvil said in 2020 that it was changing payment operations from Bitcoin and Ethereum in favor of Monero, Digital Shadows said.
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“Given the increased crackdown on Bitcoin by law enforcement authorities, we should expect cybercriminals to turn to other types of cryptocurrency when they request more ransomware payments,” FOX Business told FOX Business. Barracuda CEO BJ Jenkins.
“An example of such a cryptocurrency is Monero, which is more difficult to trace with stronger privacy and anonymity by design. However, at this point it’s still an obscure cryptocurrency compared to Bitcoin in terms of transaction volume and availability, so in the short term it’s probably going to be a payout option instead of replacing Bitcoin ” , Jenkins said.