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Ransomware attack: Why do hackers want payments through bitcoins?

'WannaCry' - the ransomware, asked users to pay a $300 ransom in bitcoins

Surbhi Gloria Singh  |  New Delhi 

Digital currency Bitcoin has emerged as a favourite tool for hackers

The recent ransomware attack has renewed a long-running debate about the dangers of digital currency. For those who are not yet aware, a malicious malware attacked almost 150 countries. The concept of the attack was simple: Your computer gets infected with a virus that encrypts your files until you pay a ransom.

"WannaCry" - the ransomware, asked users to pay a $300 ransom in bitcoins. The ransom note indicates the payment amount will be doubled after three days. If payment is not made after seven days, the encrypted files will be deleted. Security experts warn there is no guarantee that access will be granted after payment. Some ransomware that encrypts files ups the stakes after a few days, demanding more money and threatening to delete files altogether.

Why do hackers prefer over other modes of payments?

Of late, digital currency has emerged as a favourite tool for hackers.

Why is it a soft target? - When you pay something digitally, you use net banking, credit card or debit card. Now your information is attached to the card such as name, address, etc).

However, the case is different with The transactions you make using the currency are completely anonymous. According to a NDTV report, whenever customers trade in bitcoin, a private key associated with their wallet is used to generate a bit of code. That code is publicly associated with customer transaction but with no personal identifying information. 

Thus, every transaction is recorded and securely signed in an open ledger that anyone can read and double-check.

Experts say that one of the probable reasons why hackers chose as a form of payment was this - It protects identity.

Earlier, hackers used to ask for money from PayPal but due to stringent KYC (Know Your Customer) norms in PayPal, they have shifted to bitcoins.

This Twitter user has put an interesting flowchart on the Ransomware

But what is

however, is not just a technology that can facilitate crime. It is a kind of digital currency. The coins are created by users who “mine” them by lending computing power to verify other users’ transactions. They receive bitcoins in exchange. The coins also can be bought and sold on exchanges with U.S. dollars and other currencies.

You store it in an online "wallet." And with that wallet, you can spend online and in the physical world for goods and services.


According to Investopedia, price has undergone a price revision following the WannaCry cyber-attack. has enjoyed a phenomenal rally in the past few weeks, hitting a record high at $1,800 levels. However, now, the correlation between and criminals appeared to rapidly affect sentiment about the currency and Bitcoin’s price dropped.

The correlation between and criminals appeared to rapidly affect sentiment about the currency and Bitcoin’s price dropped.

is not the only digital currency that poses threat:

A report in Business Standard says the began infecting machines in late April or early May but had not been previously discovered because it allows computers to operate while creating the digital cash in the background.

According to researchers at security firm Proofpoint, digital currencies based on a technology known as blockchain operate by enabling the creation of new currency in exchange for solving complex math problems. Digital "miners" run specially configured computers to solve the problems and generate currency, whose value ultimately fluctuates according to market demand.

is by far the largest such currency, but the new mining program is not aimed at Rather it targeted a newer digital currency, called Monero, that experts say has been pursued recently by North Korean-linked hackers.

Security researchers and US intelligence officials have cautioned that such evidence is not conclusive, and the investigation is in its early stages.

Here is how Twitter is reacting to and its relation with ransomware attack: