Bitcoin criminals forced to adapt due to slide in currency value

The falling value of crypto-currency Bitcoin has forced cybercriminals to immediately launder the currency instead of waiting for it to appreciate, IBM has revealed.

Bitcoin is no longer the flourishing currency that it used to be. In December 2013, Bitcoin’s value was at its highest, costing users $1,147 per Bitcoin. Now however, the currency has decreased nearly 10 times in value, costing an estimated $238.

Bitcoin’s anonymity used to be a haven for cybercriminals, with operators using ransomware to obtain Bitcoin from their victims. Once the ransomware malware has infected a person’s PC, their data is encrypted and won’t be unlocked until they pay the operator a ‘ransom fee’, typically in Bitcoin.

Now with the falling value in Bitcoin, cybercriminals are no longer hanging on to the currency. After receiving their ransom money, the malware operators launder their bitcoin almost immediately and convert it into real money using ‘mules’, who transfer the money into a legitimate bank account.

‘‘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,’’ said Etay Maor, senior fraud prevention strategist at IBM Security in an interview with The Register at the RSA security conference in San Francisco.

‘‘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.’

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