“While it may at first seem like cryptocurrency enables ransomware, cryptocurrency is actually instrumental in fighting it.”
Ransomware, malicious software that encrypts computers and keeps them “locked” until a ransom is paid, is the world’s fastest-growing cyber threat, according to Coinfirm. Recent attacks on critical national infrastructure, like the Colonial Pipeline incursion that crippled oil and gas deliveries for a week along the U.S. East Coast, have set off alarms. Ransom payments are almost always made in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
But while many were shaken by May’s Colonial Pipeline attack — the Biden administration issued new pipeline regulations in its aftermath — relatively few are aware of that drama’s final act: Using blockchain analysis, the FBI was was able to follow the ransom payments fund flow and recover about 85% of the Bitcoin paid to ransomware group DarkSide.
In fact, blockchain analysis, which can be further enhanced with machine learning algorithms, is a promising new technique in the battle against ransomware. It takes some of crypto’s core attributes — e.g., decentralization and transparency — and uses those properties against malware miscreants.
While crypto’s detractors tend to emphasize its pseudonymity — and attractiveness to criminal elements for that reason — they tend to overlook the relative visibility of BTC transactions. The Bitcoin ledger is updated and distributed to tens of thousands of computers globally in real time each day, and its transactions are there for all to see. By analyzing flows, forensic specialists can often identify suspicious activity. This could prove to be the Achilles’ heel of the ransomware racket.
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by Andrew Singer, September 16, 2021, published on cointelegraph