The 400% rise in value of Bitcoin between October 2020 and April 2021 also caused an astounding 192% increase in cryptocurrency-related attacks within the same period, reveals Barracuda Security research.
The report is based on data recovered from phishing impersonations and business email compromise cyber-attacks during the October 2020 to May 2021 timeline. The increasing public interest in Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies saw this market hit a new high over the past year.
Although Tesla has now rescinded the offer to let customers buy an electric vehicle using Bitcoin, the EV maker embracing cryptocurrency for such a mainstream transaction gave another boost to this decentralized currency. Meanwhile, PayPal has been allowing its users in the US to buy, sell, hold and checkout with crypto money since the latter half of 2020.
All of these factors together contributed to the sudden ascent of cryptocurrency value starting in 2020. Of course, hackers have also been paying heed to this trend. They are increasingly impersonating digital wallets and other cryptocurrency-related apps to create fraudulent security alerts and steal log-in credentials from victims.
Cybercriminals have also involved Bitcoin in their business email compromise attacks by impersonating employees within organizations. For example, potential targets are sent messages from “higher-ups” in their company asking them to purchase the cryptocurrency so that employee bonuses or compensation can be distributed in Bitcoin.
Some would-be victims are emailed requests to make a charity donation in crypto money by hackers impersonating senior level management. Barracuda notes that cybercriminals tend to use words or phrases that convey a sense of urgency in order to trick hapless folks into doing what they want.
The fact that cryptocurrency is unregulated, very hard to trace and shooting up in value, provides all the incentive hackers need to go after it with unbridled enthusiasm. Ransomware attacks demanding payment in cryptocurrency have also risen massively due to the practically untraceable nature of this digital currency.
Demanding gift cards or stealing banking information is not as profitable as Bitcoin to online criminals anymore since the value of this cryptocurrency is predicted to keep rising in the future.
So how can an individual stay safe from such attacks? First off, do not panic and act immediately on alerts about a security breach even if the sender’s email address appears to be similar to your digital wallet provider’s or crypto app developer’s ID. Go the company’s official website and contact customer care first.
Do not share or store confidential information that can be used against you as blackmail material on insecure, cloud-based platforms. Back up all your important data so that hackers cannot hold it as ransom. Firms should train employees to recognize phishing attacks.
Lastly, those who’ve been unlucky enough to get hit by a cyber-attack should consider approaching law enforcement instead of trying to solve the problem themselves. It’s never easy to figure out by yourself how far down the rabbit hole a cybercriminal can force you.