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Tags: bitcoin | cybercriminals | ransomware

Bitcoin Stockpiling Sends the Wrong Message to Cybercriminals

Bitcoin Stockpiling Sends the Wrong Message to Cybercriminals

By    |   Wednesday, 27 December 2017 01:05 PM EST

On December 22, the National Cyber Security Centre issued a threat report concerning companies that are stockpiling cryptocurrencies out of fear that they will have to pay off crafty cybercriminals. Each of these firms are said to be stocking up on Bitcoin and Ethereum so that they'll be prepared in the event of a ransomware attack.

More alarming than the report itself were the statistics. A census by Citrix Systems, a multinational software company, found that 42 percent of the companies in their survey were accumulating a heavy inventory of digital currencies for ransomware payments.

This rubbed me the wrong way as an American, not because I don't believe people should be purchasing cryptocurrencies. On the contrary, now is a time when cryptocurrency futures are looking more and more attractive.

For instance, Bitcoin has grown nearly 1,800 percent since the beginning of the year, and runner-up Ethereum has limitless adoption potential in the decades ahead.

Investing in these “altcoins” isn't a bad idea in and of itself. I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to investing in bitcoin myself. But the notion of buying them to protect against ransomware sets a dangerous precedent, one that runs counter to our nation's policy when it comes to terrorists and anarchist groups.

The U.S. has long insisted that we will not negotiate with terrorists, and cybercriminals are, most certainly, terrorists. I say this because the root word of “terrorist” is “terror” and if companies are stockpiling crypto funds as a contingency against potential cyberattacks, they are doing so because of the terror that has been instilled in them by recent reports of ransomware.

Of course, our nation has caved to pressure in the past where negotiation was concerned. A notable example would be the 2014 case of the government securing the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl by handing over five Taliban prisoners that were being held at Guantanamo.

The consequence of this exchange was significant. The House said that then-President Barack Obama had broken the law by agreeing to the swap and in a matter of months, the U.S. military and intelligence community found that at least one of those five Taliban detainees had possibly returned to militant activity.

What this demonstrates is something that should be common sense by now. By succumbing to those who threaten us, we are demonstrating a weakness that undermines our power, both at a national and commercial level.

Any company that hands over hard-earned funds to a cybercriminal is giving that criminal the go-ahead to try the same kind of attack all over again, either on that company or one of their competitors in the marketplace.

Fortunately, this isn't something that has to go on. As we enter the New Year, cybersecurity continues to evolve and there are a number of solutions at the disposal of business large and small alike. The top security experts have weighed in on what companies can do to best defend their assets.

Tim Bandos, the Director of Cybersecurity at Digital Guardian, has said that companies should conduct security awareness campaigns that hammer home the importance of avoiding links and attachments in emails. He also suggests backing up sensitive data from the cloud to local storage devices and establishing GPO restrictions which put things like malware and ransomware in check.

By restricting administrative rights, backing up vital information in cold storage on a regular basis, filtering out executable files from email servers, disabling remote desktop connections and utilizing whitelisting software, companies can potentially prevent against theft of data.

Other top security experts suggest that the threat can be dealt with by installing security software, limiting employee access to top-tier files and filtering password-protected files. You'll notice that none of them suggest paying a ransom.

In the words of Paul Kubler, Cyber Security and Digital Forensics Examiner for LIFARS, LLC, “The reason why the criminals keep utilizing this form of blackmailing attacks is that people keep paying.”

Sam Bocetta is a defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, a defense analyst, and a freelance journalist. He specializes in finding radical — and often heretical — solutions to "impossible"​ ballistics problems. Through Lakeview Capital, he also cultivates funding for projects — usually naval, defense, and UAV startups. He writes about naval engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, marine ops, program management, defense contracting, export control, international commerce, patents, InfoSec, cryptography, cyberwarfare, and cyberdefense. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The U.S. has long insisted that we will not negotiate with terrorists, and cybercriminals are, most certainly, terrorists.
bitcoin, cybercriminals, ransomware
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 01:05 PM
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