Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser of U.S. President Joe Biden, said in a press briefing on June 7 that Joe Biden will speak on cryptocurrency and its role in the attack on the colonial pipeline and other ransomware breaches at the upcoming G7 summit.
During a White House press briefing, Sullivan told reporters that responding to ransomware attacks is a must as they are attacking the key infrastructure of the country. Thus, it has got to be a top priority for the United States and its allies going forward.
Commenting on those attacks, the national security adviser Sullivan added, cryptocurrencies are the most common form of payment in ransomware. He hinted that the US government will take a tough stance against cyber attacks as it is a matter of national security, considering the attacks are targeted chiefly against the country’s critical infrastructure. The recent ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline entity in May 202, where the firm had to shell out $4..4 million, has highlighted the importance of globally coordinated defense against such cyberattacks.
President Joe Biden’s Opinion on Cryptocurrencies
In his capacity, U.S. President Joe Biden has largely been silent on crypto and blockchain both as vice president under Barack Obama and during his presidential election campaign. In July 2020, as a candidate then, Biden stated he didn’t hold any Bitcoin in a Twitter post following a massive hack that took control of high-profile accounts and asked their followers to send crypto.
Nevertheless, Biden’s administration is reportedly assessing the existing rules around crypto and determining whether new restrictions are needed to protect investors following volatility in the market. The G-7 summit is scheduled to be held in the UK from June 11 to 13. It will be Biden’s first foreign trip after assuming office in January 2021.
The rise in the number of Crypto ransomware attacks
Cryptocurrencies have always remained alluring for criminals primarily due to their ease and their pseudonymous character that allows users to send funds anytime, anywhere in the world quickly, despite their clear and traceable design.
In 2019, illegal activities accounted for 2.1% of all cryptocurrency transaction volumes; however, the big news for cryptocurrency-related crime in 2020 is ransomware. The estimated number of ransomware attacks has reached new peaks as the year 2020 saw a 300%+ increase in crypto-ransomware attacks as compared to 2019. No other kind of crypto-related offenses has increased so dramatically in 2020, as coronavirus-driven work-from-home measures unlocked new vulnerabilities for many business entities.
Below are some past examples of noteworthy crypto-ransomware attacks.
WannaCry, a crypto-ransomware worm that attacks Windows PCs, was initially released in May 2017. The ransom demand of this attack ranged from $300 to $600 to be paid in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The attack targeted PCs running outdated versions of the Microsoft Windows operating systems by exploiting the EternalBlue vulnerability in the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, which allowed the ransomware to spread without victim participation.
GrandCrab was encrypting ransomware that targeted PCs running Microsoft Windows that occurred in January 2018. It runs as a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) and divides ransom payments involving the user and the GandCrab creator(s) 60/40 or 70/30 for its finest users. The payments for GrandCrab were made through a privacy-focused cryptocurrency called Dash, with payments set between the range of $600 and $600,000.
The ZCryptor is a ransomware crypto worm that encrypts files and self-propagates to other computers and network devices. In this type of ransomware attack, the first victim on the network is infected by common practice, masking as an installer of a popular program or malicious macros in Microsoft Office files.
After going inside, the crypto worm infects flash drives and external drives to allocate itself to other computers and then starts to encrypt files. It encrypts more than 80 file formats by adding a .zcrypt extension to the name of the file. Once the file format is added, the victim is given a ransom note letting them know that their files have been encrypted. The attackers then demand ransom starting from 1.2 Bitcoin to 5 Bitcoin after four days.
The Bottom Line
While these ransomware attacks have had a massive impact in recent years, such types of ransomware attacks remain an unrelenting threat even today- a greater indication that those who don’t gain knowledge from history are destined to repeat it. Hence, you have to be more diligent about updating your software and systems regularly to prevent such types of attacks in the future. As crypto’s role in ransomware, it is only used as a means for payments by the hackers. It does not mean that the entire crypto industry is bad. In fact, only 1.1% of crypto transactions are for illegal purposes, which is far lower than cash.