According to cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, bitcoin’s volatility has forced most ransomware extortionists to denominate their payments in fiat currency equivalents, presumably to ensure more people pay them.
Proofpoint’s researchers found that over the last quarter of 2017, cybercriminals sent their victims ransoms denominated in bitcoin 73% less. They increasingly started asking for a figure in U.S. dollars, or any other local fiat currency, instead of specifying the sum in bitcoin. According to reports, over two-thirds of ransomware strains are now denominating payments in fiat currencies.
“Surging cryptocurrency values are a boon for holders of bitcoin. But they are a challenge for anyone who tries to price their product or service in bitcoin — threat actors included. In Q4, newer ransomware strains appeared to take this into account. Sigma ransomware first appeared in mid-November demanding a payment denominated in US dollars.”
These, however, still demand payments be carried out in bitcoin, as its semi-anonymous nature given them an extra layer of security. Moreover, bitcoin’s value has increased over the years, so it may be a “gift” that just keeps on giving.
Ransomware extortionists carefully price ransoms
Like conventional salespeople, ransomware developers reportedly pay careful attention to the amount they demand. Per The Guardian, some criminals offer discounts to their victims, while others offer cheap solutions to developing nation residents. Some even use an escalating price, to pressure victims into paying as soon as possible.
By denominating their ransoms in fiat currency, the cybercriminals manage to maintain pricing stability, so as to ensure more people pay for their ransoms. Given bitcoin’s volatility, some victims could presumably reconsider sending them the funds.
At press time, one bitcoin is trading at $11,542. This week the cryptocurrency fell to a $9,200 low, while last month it was close to its $19,200 all-time high. According to data from Cryptocompare, bitcoin’s market cap is currently of $194 billion and cryptocurrency is up 1.26% in the last 24 hours.
As covered by Core Media, cybersecurity expert Lee Chen recently warned cryptocurrency-related hacks will increase. Chen, CEO at A10 Networks, stated that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are here to stay. As they become mainstream, he reasoned, more attackers will target adopters.
Late last year, cybercriminals even hacked people’s mobile devices in an attempt to mine cryptocurrencies. They did this by planting apps on app stores that mined cryptocurrency in the background, without asking users for permission.