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Bitcoin Inspiring Ransomware Attacks

Monday, April 13th, 2015

The emergence of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is inspiring a new wave of ransomware attacks, security experts have warned. Ransomware is a type of malware attack which restricts access to a computer or to personal data residing on a computer or cloud until a ransom is paid to the creator of the software. Lately, hackers have also unleashed sophisticated forms of ransomwares that encrypt sensitive data with advanced algorithms that cannot be cracked under any circumstances. Ransomware is a growing menace all around the world and some of the most notorious ransomwares (such as Reveton, CryptoLocker and TorrentLocker) have managed to extract millions of dollars from their victims before they could be taken down by the authorities.

The availability of anonymous cryptocurrencies has added yet another dimension to the ransomware attacks. Before the advent of Bitcoin, hackers were forced to rely on third party payment processors like PayPal to collect their payments. Since PayPal requires a physical address and is linked to a debit or credit card, this mode of operation was not only dangerous; it could eventually lead the law enforcement to the attackers. This type of ransomware attack was also far easier to block since the authorities just needed to contact PayPal and ask them to disable the account associated with the attacker in order to stop the attack. The dangers associated with using third party payment methods could explain why attackers experimented with other forms of payment (such as premium rate SMS or calls) in order to get their share of the loot.

With the emergence of Bitcoins, ransomware creators can now act without fear and collect their booty without ever getting caught. Since Bitcoin transactions are totally anonymous, authorities also remain clueless in the event of such an attack. Most new ransomware attacks come with clear-cut instructions on how to pay ransom through bitcoins and even include helpful tips for those who may not be familiar with the cryptocurrency. This may include the list of websites where Bitcoins can be bought/traded as well as links to other sites that may provide useful information about the cryptocurrency.

The new wave of ransomware attacks is not only affecting individuals who may not have access to the cutting-edge security tools but it is also targeting small and large businesses, financial institutions, academic institutions and government agencies. In a recent article, FBI has warned that ransomware attacks could lead to compromise of sensitive information, financial losses, disruption in operations and may even negatively impact the reputation of the affected individuals or organizations.

The best way to avoid a ransomware attack is to have a robust security infrastructure in place. This includes installing a trusted firewall, anti-virus tool and anti-malware software on your device and updating them at regular intervals. It is also very important to install security patches available for your operating system from time to time since a lot of malware attacks rely on security weaknesses present in the underlying software. Also, since mobile is the new frontier for all forms of hacking attacks, it is equally essential to secure mobile devices and drives used to share data between devices.

April 13, 2015

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