Interest in cryptocurrencies grew as more businesses announced that they would accept bitcoin payments. “Fueled by the chaos around bitcoin,” cryptocurrency’s price increased by almost 400 percent between October 2020 and April 2021, leading to an increase of 192% in cryptocurrency-related email hack attempts.
According to Barracuda Networks, a supplier of cloud-enabled security solutions, hackers are taking advantage of the chances which help them to deceive potential victims and maximize the revenues they may gain from their assaults.
“The digital format of cryptocurrencies make them decentralized 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 chimed in.
Urs also stated that the recent high-profile assaults in the United States on organizations such as Colonial Pipeline and JBS are likely to increase interest in the government’s participation and supervision of bitcoin.
Extortion assaults in which hackers pretend to have a compromising video or information that will be revealed to the public unless the target does not pay to lie low are carried out using bitcoin. “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 organisation,” the report remarked.
While this method has been there for a while, when the price of bitcoin rose, hackers began including it into their corporate email breach assaults impersonating workers inside a company.
They customize and target these emails in order to convince their victims to buy bitcoin, give to bogus organizations, or even pay a bogus vendor invoice with cryptocurrencies. According to the study, hackers employ words like “urgent today” or “before the day runs out” to generate a sense of urgency. Their common call to action is for their victim to go to the “nearest bitcoin machine.” They also play on their victims’ emotions by requesting that a payment be made in the form of a “charity donation,” making them feel they are doing something nice.
Because of the fast rise in the perceived value of bitcoin, ransomware assaults have become more lethal than ever.
“The possible reasons contributing towards the skyrocketing demands are: Fewer organizations choosing to take the hit by actually paying the ransom; Ransomware payments are getting traced by law enforcement agencies and strict actions are being taken; and, with the price of cryptocurrency going up, it is costing more for organizations to pay out to the cybercriminals,” it explained. Ransom demands in 2019 varied from a few thousand dollars to $2 million at the high end. By mid-2021, the majority of requests were in the millions, with a substantial percentage exceeding $20 million.
“Organizations need to protect their users from such attacks by training them on the latest email threats so that they are able to recognize the latest tactics used by hackers. They should make phishing simulation a part of their security awareness training,” The company has been using artificial intelligence and language translation skills to analyze the language used in cryptocurrency-related BEC attacks and identify keywords and calls to action used by hackers to encourage their victims.