The internet has given us many useful and groundbreaking tools and features; we can easily translate texts, look up hundreds of old pieces of literature, and go grocery shopping online. Beside these features, we can also invest in a crypto currency, called Bitcoin.
It quickly became popular for investors but also in the cybercriminal underground. But why? What makes Bitcoin so appealing to cybercriminals? We’ll take a closer look at the crypto currency and discover why it has become so popular among hackers and criminals.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoins saw the light of day back in 2009 and was invented by the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. It has since then been the central character in many debates and controversies. It became rather popular with its promise of anonymity which made it a financial phenomenon and also the preferred currency of hackers and cybercriminals.
Bitcoin is a currency without a bank or single administrator, making it a decentralized digital currency. It uses blockchain technology, which is a ledger that tracks all transactions across a network of computers. Bitcoins in itself are created with a process called mining. It’s a process where powerful computers solve complex and advanced problems, where it secures and validates the transactions on the network.
- This way, the bitcoin transaction can remain anonymous and go across national borders without detection.
An alluring currency
One of the main reasons that hackers and cybercriminals use bitcoin for internal payment as well as in ransom payments is that a user can stay completely anonymous. Unlike traditional payment and financial transactions, Bitcoin doesn’t require any personal information in order for a user to make transactions.
When a user uses Bitcoin they can use a cryptographic address, which is, in other words, an anonymous and encrypted address. This makes it very difficult to track who is behind each account.
Even though the blockchain tracks and records every transaction, it only shows which addresses are involved in the transaction, and not which people are involved. This gives the hackers and cybercriminals an ideal shield to hide behind when they demand a ransom or pay others on the dark web.
No single entity has control over the entire system of Bitcoins since it operates on the aforementioned decentralized networks. The decentralization ensures stability and security meaning that the transactions cannot be controlled by anyone, not even governments or financial institutions. This makes the ideal conditions for cybercriminals. They can conduct any sort of illegal activities including hacking attacks like ransomware attacks, identity theft and money laundering without the attention or interference from authorities.
Beside the anonymous transactions, another pretty appealing aspect of Bitcoins is that you can access it no matter where you are in the world - as well as transfer money to wherever you wish. You simply need an internet connection and a device that is capable of participating in the Bitcoin transactions.
Since everyone can participate in these transactions, the landscape in which cybercriminals can navigate has become enormous. There are no boundaries they have to consider, and they can sit across the globe from where they execute a ransomware attack, and not get caught by law enforcement. You can also make transactions anytime you want, as well as really quickly. This means that hackers can make the deals quick and easy, without a major risk of detection.
There is no way back once you’ve completed the transaction - once the transactions have been confirmed on the blockchain, they are irreversible. This differs from regular credit card transactions that can be reversed and disputed. Cybercriminals find the Bitcoin transactions quite handy since their victims cannot reverse or dispute the ransom payment; once the Bitcoins have been transferred, there’s no way for them to go back to the victim’s account.
There’s also no proper limitations or regulations Bitcoin users need to follow, which encourages hackers and cybercriminals to exploit any found loopholes in the few existing laws and regulations.
The dark side of Bitcoins
Cybercriminals and hackers are often active on the dark web. Traditional search engines cannot index or find forums and websites on the dark web, which makes it the ideal marketplace for illicit activities. So, with an untraceable website comes an untraceable currency.
Cybercriminals use Bitcoins as their primary currency to purchase illegal:
- Stolen data
- Hacking tools
So of course Bitcoin gained great popularity on the dark web, where cybercriminals and criminals in general want to stay anonymous.
Since the crypto currency is so difficult to track it makes the law enforcement’s job even more difficult than before. Several governments are attempting to regulate and monitor any crypto currency transactions, however not with much luck. This requires eyes and ears on both sides of the law, and even if they succeed in infiltrating the cybercriminals’ networks and forums, it’ll be difficult to track down the culprits.
Navigating the shadows
Bitcoins were a groundbreaking tool and currency when it was invented in the late 2000s, and to this day, it still exudes mystery and anonymity. Bitcoins have become the ultimate tool for anonymous transactions across the digital and physical world. It’s a borderless and limitless currency that is ideal for illegal activities.
- The technology behind Bitcoins holds great potential for changing the global financial landscape but Bitcoin is currently very much associated with risky transactions and cybercrime.
It’s crucial to find a balance between privacy, regulations and security. If these are balanced correctly, we could have a great crypto currency system where it is safe to make transactions between accounts - and not associated with illicit activities.
Cybercriminals have made it difficult for law enforcement to accept the use of Bitcoins and crypto currency since it is such an appealing tool for criminals. It’s only through international collaboration, updated legislations and technological advancements that we hopefully can navigate properly in the shadowy realm of crypto currency.
Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.View all posts by Caroline Preisler