Bitcoin and Ransomware – A Breakdown
Having an online presence of any kind makes you susceptible to malware and ransomware attacks. In particular, security specialists have been vocal about the risk of ransomware and Bitcoin over recent years.
If you’re planning to buy Bitcoin or give Bitcoin mining a try, it’s essential to understand the connection between ransomware and Bitcoin and what you can do to minimise the chances of an attack.
What Is Ransomware and How Does It Work?
First, let’s explain the concept of ransomware. Though the term is self-explanatory, breaking it down can provide a better understanding.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts a victim’s data. Basically, your data is held hostage until you pay a specific amount of money. If you agree to pay, the attackers send you instructions on how to recover your data.
That is not guaranteed, however. Many users pay the ransom and never get their data back. So, where does Bitcoin fit in all of that? Unfortunately, 98% of all ransomware payments go through Bitcoin. This makes it a substantial part of the ransomware model.
There are several reasons why that’s the case. Accessibility plays a major role, as almost anyone can open a Bitcoin wallet and buy Bitcoin.
Also, all crypto transactions are verifiable and publicly available on the Bitcoin block explorer. Finally, even though Bitcoin is not entirely anonymous, resourceful extortionists can keep their identities well-hidden.
Why It Matters?
The problem of ransomware deserves a lot of attention, but even more so when connected to Bitcoin. We can’t ignore the fact that the very existence of cryptocurrency presents a problem for some traditional institutions.
The issue of Bitcoin being used for illicit activities often arises. It’s a reputation Bitcoin hasn’t been able to shake off entirely. Therefore, being the primary payment method for ransomware attacks doesn’t help. But the problem goes even deeper.
Some ransomware attacks were directed towards prominent institutions, such as the National Health Service in 2017 or the city of Atlanta in the US in 2018. Occasionally these payments are seized by law enforcement, but that requires a lot of effort and resources.
Should Bitcoin Be Banned?
If Bitcoin’s role in a ransomware attack is that prominent, shouldn’t it be banned then? According to some financial experts, the answer is a resounding yes. While that might sound like the perfect solution, it doesn’t make much sense to go down that road.
After all, ransomware has existed for a long time. The first recorded attack took place in 1989 when a biologist distributed floppy disks at a conference.
That attack failed, but many other nefarious parties have since succeeded. If Bitcoin were to be banned overnight, ransomware would still be around. Besides, dealing with ransomware is not a good enough reason to disregard all the benefits associated with Bitcoin.
How to Mitigate Ransomware Attacks
The focus should be on preventing ransomware attacks and not how to get rid of Bitcoin. Learning about how to maintain cyber hygiene is vital in keeping your data safe online. You’ve probably heard this one before, but make sure never to click that suspicious link in your inbox.
If you’re not sure who the sender is, it’s best to delete it.
On top of that, building excellent email and endpoint protection will go a long way when it comes to avoiding extortion.
Also, make sure to have backups, especially if you’re dealing with a lot of sensitive data you can’t afford to lose. Finally, investing in high-quality software that will protect you from malware is worth considering.
Spend Your Bitcoins the Right Way
A ransomware attack is stressful for anyone. Your data is jeopardised, and you feel vulnerable. To make matters worse, someone asks you to open your Bitcoin wallet and spend your hard-earned Bitcoins to get it back.
While no one can be 100% protected from ransomware, there are many things you can do to ensure the odds are reduced to a minimum. The first step is to be cautious about phishing scams and unverified email senders simply.
Finally, the persistence of ransomware attacks is unlikely to get Bitcoin banned, but recognising the connection is the first step towards solving the problem.