Explained: Why hackers prefer ransomware payment in Bitcoin

Colonial Pipeline, which operates the largest fuel network in the United States, was forced to pay a ransom of $5 million to hacker group DarkSide recently after a ransomware attack disrupted its operations.

A report from blockchain analytics firm Elliptic has found that the DarkSide hackers group received $90 million in Bitcoin from around 47 victims.

In a blog post on May 18, Elliptic co-founder chief scientist Tom Robinson said the $90 million in ransom payments came from 47 different wallets over the last nine months, indicating that almost half of DarkSide victims paid a ransom.

Elliptic also claimed that Colonial Pipeline paid ransom in 75 Bitcoins to DarkSide.

“Elliptic has identified the Bitcoin wallet used by the DarkSide ransomware group to receive ransom payments from its victims, based on our intelligence collection and analysis of blockchain transactions. This wallet received the 75 BTC payment (worth $4.4 million at the time of the transaction) made by Colonial Pipeline on May 8,” claimed the blockchain analytics firm.

Why Hackers Love Bitcoin?

Hackers prefer Bitcoin over any other form of payment as it is a digital currency that is totally anonymous, confidential, and hard to trace. Bitcoin is currently traded at $39,998 and an average ransomware that a corporate pays is in the $0.2-1.2 million range depending on the hacker and vulnerability of the corporate.

According to Jason Kotler, founder and CEO of a cyber negotiation company called Cypfer, the going ransomware is half a percent for billion-dollar companies. The hackers even read annual reports, reported CNBC.

Marc Bleicher, managing director at cybersecurity consulting firm Arete Incident Response and a specialist who helps companies, said he has overseen the payment of hundreds of millions of corporate dollars to criminal hackers, and that he is seeing ransom demands growing larger and larger, the CNBC report added.

With Bitcoin, the hackers have anonymity, speed and easy access and transactions are difficult to track. Bitcoin operates on a public blockchain that allows anyone to see all Bitcoin transactions, yet there is no direct way to determine the account owner. The other cryptocurrencies such as Monero and Zcash are even better encrypted and offer more privacy but not many prefer them.