As the price of bitcoin increased by almost 400 per cent, cryptocurrency-related email compromise attacks increased by 192 per cent between October 2020 and May 2021, a report said on Tuesday.
According to cloud-enabled security solutions provider Barracuda Networks, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the opportunities this creates for them to trick potential victims and increase the profits they can make from their attacks.
“The digital format of cryptocurrencies make them decentralised in nature and without any regulations, they have become the currency of choice for cybercriminals,” Murali Urs, Country Manager, Barracuda Networks-India, said in a statement.
“It fuelled and enabled a multi-billion economy of ransomware, cyber-extortion and impersonation. These attacks are targeting not just private businesses, but also critical infrastructure, so they increasingly pose a national security risk,” Urs added.
Urs also said that the recent high-profile attacks on organisations like Colonial Pipeline and JBS in the US are likely to bring greater interest in the government’s intervention and regulation of bitcoin.
Hackers use bitcoin to get paid in extortion attacks where they claim to have a compromising video or information that will be released to the public if the victim does not pay to keep it quiet.
While this scheme has been around for some time, as the price of bitcoin climbed, cybercriminals started including it as part of their business email compromise attacks impersonating employees within an organization.
They target and personalize these emails to get their victims to purchase bitcoin, donate them to fake charities, or even pay a fake vendor invoice using cryptocurrency.
Due to the rapid growth in the perceived value of bitcoin, ransomware attacks have also become more damaging than ever.
In 2019, ransom demands ranged from a few thousand dollars to $2 million at the top end. By mid-2021 most demands were in the millions, with a significant number over $20 million.