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Cybercriminals cash in bitcoins for Mules

Bitcoins no longer enticing for cybercriminals with depreciating value.

By CBR Staff Writer

Bitcoins are no longer attracting cyber criminals due to the falling price of the virtual currency, which is presently valuated at $238 after touching all time high of $1,147 in December 2013.

The anonymity of the currency once made it the most preferred currency to launder through ransomware, a malicious programme that encrypts victims’ files until they pay a ransom in bitcoins to decrypt the data.

However, now due to fall in price of Bitcoins, cybercriminals are now converting bitcoins into other form of currencies immediately.

IBM Security senior fraud prevention strategist at Etay Maor told The Register: "I’ve seen this discussion in underground forums among Russian criminals.

"They use Bitcoin for the money laundering part and take payment with it, but they’ll move it out almost immediately.

"Most of them won’t keep bitcoins – they don’t like the valuations Bitcoin has – so they just use it as a layer of obfuscation, and move it to a different form of money."

The gang responsible for the malicious programme is believed to have made £2m from victims before it was broken up.

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According to Maor, the gangs used Mules, regular people who are not directly linked to the gangs to launder the funds through their accounts in exchange of 15% or 20% commission on the funds.

Usually, Mules are tricked into taking the jobs, who end up in the hands of authorities while the malware operator goes scot free.

Authorities in many countries are looking into the matter to help victims, and recently Kaspersky teamed up with Netherlands’ National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) to introduce decryption keys to help victims get back their data for free.

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