There was a wave of panic when ransomware hit the Colonial Pipeline earlier this year. It was most likely the first time ransomware had affected millions of people. The company paid the ransom in exchange for a decryption tool that allowed the company’s billing system to be restored online within a few hours.However, the process was slow, and the pipeline took nearly five days to reopen. While the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline is the most well-known of the year, it is only one of thousands.
The advancement of cryptography is making malware even more dangerous. Ransomware is a more conducive business opportunity than any other cybercrimes due to the absence of intermediaries and its scalable nature. This attack exemplifies cryptoviral extortion to a tee.Malware has become even more dangerous as cryptography has progressed. Because there are no intermediaries and it is scalable, ransomware is a better business opportunity than other cybercrimes. Cryptoviral extortion is exemplified by this attack.
How do ransomware attacks happen?
Hackers need three things to launch a ransomware attack. To begin the attack, they will need reliable and well-implemented cryptographic techniques for stealing data, blocking access, or encrypting data. Hackers also need the onion routing protocol or Tor Protocol to communicate with victims in an anonymous and direct manner.They also make and receive ransomware payments using cryptocurrency.
There are currently over 4,000 cryptocurrencies in use around the world, but bitcoin is demanded in almost every ransom attack. Despite its public ledger, it is anonymous, confidential, and difficult to trace for obvious reasons.
The currency is based on a public blockchain that allows anyone to see bitcoin transactions, but there is no way to find out who owns the account. The currency is worth far more than all other cryptocurrencies combined. That means hackers can demand a small number of bitcoins in exchange for a large sum of money, and concealing ten coins is far easier than concealing a hundred.
Can bitcoins be found?
Tracking bitcoin is difficult enough, but laundering bitcoin is even more difficult. Each bitcoin transaction is represented by a list of inputs and outputs that reflect the bitcoins sent to a specific address that is only visible to us as an alphanumeric string created by a Bitcoin user. To maintain anonymity, users are encouraged to use multiple addresses.A key that serves as a password corresponds to a wallet. If a person loses or forgets their private key, their bitcoin is forever lost.
While bitcoin is a public ledger, and it may be simple to track its movement from one wallet to another, determining who owns the wallet is a much more difficult task.
Some hackers switch from one cryptocurrency to another or move money from one wallet to another to launder money. Peel-chain is another strategy that involves moving bitcoin from one wallet to new addresses over hundreds of transactions, reducing the risk of red flags.
Investigative agencies face yet another challenge as a result of chain hopping. It moves money between cryptocurrencies and blockchains in order to get it out of the public ledger and into more private blockchains. Most of the time, the chain hopping trails go cold, making it difficult for investigative agencies to pursue the case further.
Due to the borderless nature of these currencies, pursuing cryptocurrency ransoms is a completely different area of investigation. It’s almost as if you’re in the money equivalent of the Wild West.
Investigators may use a combination of heuristics to develop and analyse transactions, grouping all blockchain addresses into subsets associated with specific real-world actors.The process is predicated on the assumption that the same person must control two addresses linked to the same transaction.
Following the Colonial Pipeline breach, the FBI committed significant resources to apprehend the perpetrators and recoup the ransom. The FBI, on the other hand, discovered that the attack was only thwarted by a hacking group known as the DarkSide.Although the FBI was unable to apprehend them, it was able to recover $2 million.
The FBI has yet to figure out how it cracked the wallet’s private key. The Bureau worked its way through a maze of 20 cryptocurrency accounts and wallets to find the account where the money was hidden, according to a document presented in court.The FBI had the password to the account and was able to recover 63.7 Bitcoins out of the total of 75 Bitcoins paid in ransom. While the ransom recovery has given people hope that it will be used as a deterrent in the future, it is unlikely that such massive efforts will be used in every case.Furthermore, there is currently no complete anti-ransomware solution. The rise in the value of cryptocurrency has been a contributing factor to the rise in such attacks.