Report: Bitcoin Likely to Fuel Ransomware Growth Unless Governments Act

Journalist:
April 27, 2017

The growth of Bitcoin has helped fuel ransomware making it a profitable and viable business model for criminals, which is likely to continue unless governments decide to act, according to F-Secure Labs.

The Finnish-based cybersecurity and privacy company has said that government reluctance to shut down bitcoin has meant that new extortion-enabling malware families have at least doubled each year since 2012.

According to a recent F-Secure Labs report, The State of Cyber Security 2017, there was one known ransomware family in 2012; however, by 2015, there were 35 and by 2016 this number had risen to 193.

Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, said that the digital currency was able to survive and thrive during the last U.S. presidential administration, but that the new administration appears keen to crack down on the ‘drug war,’ according to a recent announcement.

He said:

If the U.S. pursues all the forms of potentially illegal payments, ransomware’s growth could be abated. Otherwise, we expect to see the new ransomware families we discovered in 2017 at least double.

In January 2017, Sullivan decided to do some investigating into the ‘customer portal’ of an innovative new family of crypto-ransomware known as Spora. He learnt that by luring in unsuspecting victims, the method of payment required was in bitcoin. Yet, he states that bitcoin’s limitations does have its merits.

We should be thankful that there are at least some limits on purchasing Bitcoin. If it were any easier to do so, very little else would check the growth of crypto-ransomware’s business model.

Little Interest in Legalizing Bitcoin

At the moment, the U.S. has shown very little interest in legalizing bitcoin. This can be seen by the fact that in March, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected the bitcoin exchange traded-fund (ETF), the first of its kind, proposed by the Winklevoss Twins.

This was because the SEC did ‘not find the proposal to be consistent with Section 6(b)(5) of the Exchange Act, which requires, among other things, that the rules of a national securities exchange be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts…’

However, according to Sullivan, U.S. and European officials could dent bitcoin through a simple change: by tying a bitcoin exchange account to a physical address, which would require  an activation code being sent to you before an account could be opened.

He states:

The exchange would hate it. But given the hundreds of millions of dollars being extored every few months, its seems appropriate.

Sullivan stresses, though, the time is of the essence. Considering that Ethereum is following a similar path to bitcoin and recently bid for Wall Street with an ETF application, Sullivan believes that if governments don’t come up with a solution to digital currencies, ‘it’s not going to get any easier.’

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Last modified (UTC): May 6, 2017 18:33