Bitcoin use has come into question recently especially since the case of the recent cyber-attack on Medstar Health systems. The attack illustrates how vulnerable companies are. Now the cyber-criminals have a new weapon, instead of an offshore bank account they can now simply demand bitcoins for the ransom. That is exactly what happened here. The company was hit with a malware virus and given 10 days to come up with 45 Bitcoins the equivalent of $19,000. Most of Medstars systems are back online and it is still uncertain who the attackers were and where it originated from.
It is widely known that Bitcoin use has been the payment method of choice in places like the “dark web”. The anonymity allows a transaction to proceed without much more info than an alias and an email. This kind of image is exactly what has been preventing Bitcoin from entering the mainstream of commerce. Now Bitcoin abuse is taking on a whole new level. A Healthcare provider that was unable to access critical patient data until they paid a ransom in crypto-currency. The optics for Bitcoin here are at best terrible.
Defenders of Bitcoin site that there are solutions to the anonymity issue especially in regards to cybercrime and criminal activity. Law enforcement should be able to identify users of Bitcoin especially if there is a wallet involved and a connection to the banking system. IP addresses of Bitcoin transactions can also be used to track them should that be warranted. Supporters also point out that law enforcement can obtain subpoenas to unmask the identity of Bitcoin transactions and that this is actually happening more than we know.
The reality is that law enforcement still needs to play catch in some areas. The bigger issue is that if Bitcoin use ever looks to get any sense of legitimacy the cases like Medstar need to end. Crypto-currency cannot look like the easy getaway car for cyber-criminals.
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