Would killing Bitcoin end ransomware?

Bitcoin and ransomware seem to go hand-in-hand, but experts explain that doing away with the cybercurrency would just force cybercriminals to find another anonymous way to extort money.

Ransomware is running rampant. The SonicWall GRID Threat Network detected an increase from 3.8 million ransomware attacks in 2015 to 638 million in 2016. According to a Radware report, 49 percent of businesses were hit by a ransomware attack in 2016. Quite often the attacker asks for some amount of cybercurrency – usually Bitcoin – in exchange for providing a decryption key.

One question this raises is whether ransomware attacks would decrease if Bitcoin ceased to exist? Security experts answer that question with a resounding “no”, indicating that cybercriminals would just move on to another anonymous payment method to continue their extortion.

"Getting rid of Bitcoin to stop ransomware would be like the U.S. Government getting rid of $100 bills to try to stop drug dealers from laundering their dirty money. It’s not the right solution. Would it momentarily create a bump in the road for cyber attackers who are making millions off of ransomware? Absolutely, but only for a fleeting moment,” said Richard Henderson, global security strategist at Absolute.

He added that attackers will just switch to any of the dozens of other popular virtual currencies, or switch to other easily launder-able instruments like prepaid credit cards. “Remember, the GreenDot MoneyPak was a favorite among cybercriminals not too long ago. Attackers will just find another way to get paid.”

While paying the ransom is highly discouraged, many of the security experts said the only way to seriously reduce ransomware is through user education.

“We’re not going to get rid of ransomware easily. As long as people continue to struggle to keep their devices fully-patched and protected, and as long as people continue to open attachments they shouldn’t or click on links they probably shouldn’t, attackers are going to be able to infect machines,” Henderson said.

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