The popularity of bitcoin is creating problems for ransomware criminals wanting to get paid in the skyrocketing cryptocurrency.
"We'll see a progressive shift in 2018 towards criminal use of cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin, making it generally more challenging for law enforcement to counter," Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, recently warned.
There are various reasons why cybercriminals move their operations away from bitcoin. Those range from its current high profile and its current high value meaning even small fluctuations in its value can dramatically alter the cost of a bitcoin, to worries that the anonymity it offers isn't all it's cracked up to be, as demonstrated by arrests and takedowns after authorities followed a bitcoin trail.
"The fact that so many people are legally buying into bitcoin right now has dramatically increased the volume of trading. There's a limited amount of transactions per block, if the block is full those transactions are full and you have to wait," Gabriel Glusman, senior cyber intelligence analyst at Sixgill, told ZDNet.
Anything that's less than $200 isn't worth paying in bitcoin
"So, the time it takes for transactions to confirm, the high volume, and the transaction fees makes it that anything that's less than $200 isn't worth paying in bitcoin, because the transaction fees are crazy."
However, a number of alternatives to bitcoin have emerged in the cryptocurrency space -- and these 'altcoins' are gaining popularly amongst the cybercriminal fraternity, who want speed and security when conducting transactions.
One alternative which is gaining traction with ransomware distributors in particular is Monero.
Launched in 2014, this cryptocurrency comes equipped with additional privacy and security features which stop transactions from being traced back to users -- and nor can transaction histories be viewed. That improves security for all users, but will also make it harder for authorities tracking those who use Monero as their currency of choice for ransomware demands.
While not yet a widespread payment method for distributors of ransomware, there are a number of examples of ransomware demanding their fee for unlocking be paid in Monero, such as Kirk ransomware.
I suggest you get some accounts at an exchange with popular crypto currencies just in case... We do.
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