Bitcoin is fast becoming a player in the online marketplace. People are starting to make investments in the electronic currency in the hope of cashing in on its wealth-building opportunities. Criminals seeking to scam others out of hard earned cash are also in the mix because Bitcoin’s blockchain technology lends itself to anonymous transactions.
WannaCrypt hacker’s malware ransom scheme
In May, 2017 hackers stole private data in a large malware attack affecting more than 300,000 computers and taking down systems all over the world. In order to receive a code to “decrypt” their scrambled data, users were asked to send ransom money through Bitcoin.
The assumption is that the attackers felt they could anonymously cash-in ransom money from frantic users who were willing to pay. But was that really the case?
High profile attack means law enforcement is watching
Bitcoin is built using numbered codes rather than actual names and addresses making identities difficult to trace. Many people talk about Bitcoin’s popularity for illicit transactions like drug sales, ransoms and porn.
Nevertheless, Bitcoin does log transactions. WannaCrypt hackers would have trouble cashing in without leaving an electronic trail that law enforcement could track.
Based on companies that analyze Bitcoin, the estimated take of the WannaCrypt hackers stands about $70,000.
Bitcoin exchanges attempt to stay legal
Companies known as exchanges have popped up to assist Bitcoin merchants to exchange the electronic currency for cash. Many of these are regulated and run similarly to businesses like Western Union. They are required by regulation to verify identities.
They are already aware of which blockchain addresses are associated with criminal activity. Most have zero tolerance for money laundering and illegal transactions.
Exchanges located in places where regulations are more lax, may not want to handle the transaction either. Being linked to a high-profile event like the WannaCrypt malware scam could cause more trouble than its worth.
Mixing services may not help either
The criminal enterprises that claim to be able to mix up the blockchain data to confuse the trail are unreliable. Criminals would need to be able to trust multiple players in the scheme.
It appears the hackers for WannaCrypt were not terribly sophisticated in their use of Bitcoin’s technology. Their account set-up is easy to trace. Even if they sell their take in small amounts, it is likely to be traced back to them by law enforcement.
A person, who gets caught hacking or conducting electronic scams using Bitcoin or other online services, will want to consult an attorney who focuses in this area of criminal defense.