Should we expect cybercriminals to ditch pseudonymous cryptocurrency for other forms of payment that might be more effective at confusing law enforcement?
Earlier this week, the Justice Department announced that it had seized approximately $ 2.3 million worth of bitcoin (BTC 63.7) collected in the BTC 75 payment for the Colonial Pipeline ransomware. Does this mean Bitcoin is “hackable” – with enough computing power?
For years, Bitcoin’s weaknesses (or strengths, depending on your perspective) have been known, but rarely highlighted. But the crooks have become greedy, or the market has just decided for them. With public sentiment boiling, along with the willingness of policymakers to prosecute those who attempt to take control of critical infrastructure, the appetite to go after Bitcoin has resurfaced.
The problem is, Bitcoin is pseudonym, but it is definitely not anonymous. While it has the advantage of the first engine and has retained much of the residual network effect and associated value, loopholes in the notorious armor of anonymity are beginning to appear.
Since the full historical ledger is publicly available, analyzing traffic patterns involving a given address helps match an exceptional payment pattern to a particular Bitcoin address and pursue that rabbit hole to possibly prosecute the true owner. Since sufficiently motivated parties took years to test the theory, it was only a matter of time before a target of sufficient size surfaced to launch their weapons.
Speaking of weapons, the Fed recently upped the severity rating of ransomware to that of terrorist activity, expanding the reach, mandate and budget of government efforts to hunt down and eradicate it, even increasingly to the ‘foreign. If they can follow him.
Years ago, other more privacy-focused cryptocurrencies, such as Monero, began to address the transparency of Bitcoin transactions, implementing things like ring signatures and other technical defenses. against traceability. But many of them have failed in their ability to become sufficiently traded to conduct global transactions transparently; this place remained focused on Bitcoin, and later on Ethereum.
But there are plenty of others.
While the anger surrounding the outsized ransomware payments seems poised to continue for some time, bad actors seem more likely to shy away from the Bitcoin platform for payments more and more. Of the roughly 5,000 alternatives currently listed on a popular trading platform, others in the top ten seem poised to make their way to the top spot, especially if the anonymity is correct.
It had to happen.
As markets mature and users desire a more complete and robust platform, a resurgence of interest in more anonymous alternatives seems natural. All it needed was a tipping point. Maybe that’s it. Not that an instantaneous exodus of unscrupulous digital people seems imminent, but expect ransomware gangs to once again focus on alternative forms of payment that are better able to hide their tracks.