How cryptocurrency impacts cyber threats

Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to obtain cryptocurrencies

Cyber criminals and cryptocurrencyThe anonymity of cryptocurrency helps virus creators remain undetected

There are many types of cryptocurrencies and they have been popular for a long time as an alternative to real money. However, along with being a great invention for ordinary users, cryptocurrencies have also become popular with cybercriminals. Creators of ransomware viruses and other threats actively try to extort cryptocurrencies from their victims, as this way they can directly profit from their victims and remain uncaught.

It is a well-known fact that virus creators demand payment in cryptocurrency for the victim to receive an alleged decryption key that will help unlock files encrypted by the ransomware virus. Cyber-scammers demand Bitcoin, Ethereum or other cryptocurrencies and assure victims that they will get their files back if they hurry up and pay on time.

Cryptocurrency extortion-based threats, known as ransomware, are nothing new. Many different versions have evolved over the years. New methods and increasingly sophisticated technologies help virus creators to earn large sums of money and ensure constant profits. In addition, double extortion has also recently appeared, and triple extortion is also appearing in the latest versions.

The ransomware uses a file-locking method and demands payments in cryptocurrency, as such payments are not easily traceable. Therefore, criminals can make money from victims located almost anywhere in the world and remain undetected.

Of course, cryptocurrencies are also used in the case of other cyber threats. For example, Trojans and other malware are often created to steal user credentials or other sensitive information. This way criminals successfully hack into users' accounts and makes transfers without their knowledge. Scammers target many people, but those who are more or less connected to the use of cryptocurrencies are more at risk.

The profit of ransomware has grown along with the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies

Of course, criminals want money, it is nothing new. Cyber scammers like to make false promises and use various tricks to help them fill their pockets quickly and easily. Ransomware is a threat that quickly locks all files on a computer and then demands money for fake file decryption tools. In addition, such a virus damages the system and often remains active. So it can additionally lock new files downloaded to the device after encryption.

Many victims get scared and quickly transfer the required amount of money, hoping to get their data back. They believe that virus creators will keep their promises, but trusting cyber criminals is not smart. Their promises are false and even after sending large sums of money, victims do not receive the promised decryption tool. So, in the end, users are left not only without their files but also without money.

2020 was a very successful year for ransomware viruses, as the attackers were able to choose the right time to carry out their attacks and chose specific targets. However, in the past two years, these threats have become even more common as the popularity of cryptocurrencies has grown along with them.

As more and more people and companies start using such electronic currency, ransomware creators have a growing list of potential victims. That is why it is important to take care of cyber security and data backups not only on company devices but also on private computers.

Recent reports even show that search engine advertisements can lead to scam campaigns or malicious program installations that result in NFT or cryptocurrency wallet steals. Digital asset owners have been victimized and lost their funds when some popular programs got downloaded from a malicious source via a Google advertising campaign.

Cryptocurrencies are very convenient for the distribution of ransomware viruses

Although cryptocurrencies are associated with modern technology, the specific methods of sending and receiving virtual money work well for cybercriminals. Cryptocurrency transactions are untraceable, which is what ransomware developers deliberately use to their advantage. After all, this is a completely anonymous operation.

The digital currency has quickly become a favourite way for cybercrooks to get the money they demand after locking files. Because transactions are untraceable, criminals can enjoy growing wealth and feel secure in continuing to maintain anonymity. In this way, ransomware viruses have become quite a popular business, as these threats have been distributed by other criminals who did not even create them. To them, it looks like easy and safe money.

So, while the digital currency has become popular among ordinary users who are happy to be able to sell and receive virtual coins or other things more easily, security issues have also arisen with cryptocurrencies. Cyber ​​thieves extort huge sums of money even from companies or government organizations but remain untraceable.

Although ransomware attacks occur in various corners of the world, the cybercriminals who distribute them usually live in completely different countries. For example, scammers may live in India or Russia, and their targets may be users or companies from China or the United States.

Therefore, the anonymity of virtual currency is useful for cybercriminals. They can easily earn money without any risk. Of course, there are ways to protect yourself from viruses and avoid falling into ransomware campaigns. It is extremely important to handle cryptocurrencies responsibly and always use multi-layered protection. This can be ensured by having a constantly running antivirus program, using a VPN, and ensuring strong DNS protection.

In addition, it is important to be careful on the Internet: do not go to suspicious sites, do not download files from unknown sources, and before using cryptocurrencies, firstly understand how it all works. If you do end up with ransomware and your files are locked, do not give in to the criminals' demands. It is better to just remove the virus and restore the files using their backup copies.

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Gabriel E. Hall
Gabriel E. Hall - Passionate virus researcher

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