The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently stated that the total amount that victims of bitcoin ransomware attacks paid in the last six years totaled $144 million. Per the FBI’s findings, the proceeds went to mixers, virtual currency exchanges, and, with most of the payments made in bitcoin.
Bitcoin Ransomware Proceeds Top $144 Million in Six Years
Speaking at the RSA Conference 2020 in California, United States, Joel DeCapua, FBI supervisory special agent, noted that victims of bitcoin ransomware attacks paid about $144.35 million between 2013 and 2019.
According to De Capua, one of the reasons the ransomware sector boomed was because affected companies/organizations could file insurance claims after making such payments. The FBI agents elaborated, saying:
“No one wants to pay the ransom actors. I think a lot of companies get insurance now. They say, ‘Well if we are hit by ransomware, we are just going to defer to what our insurance company wants to do.’ They can say it wasn’t their choice to pay the ransom, because like I said, no one wants to pay the ransom. So I think that because ransom payments are insurable, I think it has caused more ransoms to be paid.”
DeCapua also noted that the total figure in the last six years did not cover any aspect of the victims’ losses but restricted to bitcoin payments made. Also, the cybercriminals preferred BTC over other virtual currencies, which went to crypto exchanges or coin mixers.
Among to FBI’s statistics, Ryuk, a popular, sophisticated, and notorious ransomware, took the lion’s share by raising $61.26 million in one year alone, while Dharma accrued $24.48 million in three years.
There has been an increase in ransomware and cryptojacking attacks, with cybercriminals employing more sophisticated methods thereby making detection difficult. According to a 2019 report by Russia-based cybersecurity company, Kaspersky, the number of ransomware attacks magnified in 2019 compared to 2018.
South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, was forced to temporarily shut down all online channels, after detecting a ransomware attack on the city’s network system. The cybercriminals sent emails to employees demanding payments in BTC, prompting the officials to take action. However, the authorities refused to concede to the hackers’ demands.
Ransomware and Cryptojacking Attacks on the Rise
Another attack occurred in Jerez de la Frontera, a city in Spain, where a hacker hijacked the city’s computer system and demanded a ransom in bitcoin to decrypt the system.
In June 2019, cybercriminals infected computers and servers belonging to Riviera Beach, Florida, thereby blocking access to important data. The city’s officials collectively agreed to heed the hackers’ demands to pay 65 BTC ($573,000).
As reported by Blockonomi back in November 2019, Mexican Petroleum company, Pemex, was also a victim of a ransomware attack, with criminals demanding over 500 bitcoins to stop the cyberattack.
A British High Court recently ordered major crypto exchange, Bitfinex, to freeze any suspicious virtual currency account holding a bitcoin ransomware payout of 96BTC. This order came after a victim complained that cybercriminals infected their computer systems with ransomware in 2019.
There have also been cases of cryptojacking, which involves the attacker taking over the victim’s system to mine digital currency without the owner’s consent. Back in December, perpetrators hid a malicious MyKingz botnet in a JPEG image of popular American singer, Taylor Swift.