FBI: Ransomware Nets Criminals $18 Million in Bitcoin

June 25, 2015

FBI: Ransomware Nets Criminals $18 Million in Bitcoin For the 14 months ending May 31 of this year, criminals used ransomware to steal $18 million worth of Bitcoin and other digital currencies from U.S. owners, according to the FBI. The law enforcement agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) logged nearly one thousand complaints from U.S. users claiming they were victims of ransomware—malicious software that blocks access to a computer or certain files until a monetary amount is paid. The malware variant responsible for the bulk of the incidents, according to IC3, is known as CryptoWall.

Businesses and individuals are equally likely to be victims of CryptoWall, the FBI said. Like most malware, problems begin after a victim clicks on an infected ad, email, attachment or link. Once the victim’s device is infected, their files are encrypted and then the thief steps in to demand payment, which is where Bitcoin comes in.

“Most criminals involved in ransomware schemes demand payment in Bitcoin,” the FBI said in its statement. “Criminals prefer Bitcoin because it’s easy to use, fast, publicly available, decentralized, and provides a sense of heightened security/anonymity.”