On June 7, 2021, the Department of Justice announced that it had seized 63.7 Bitcoins valued at approximately $2.3 million. Hackers initially collected the illicit funds in the Colonial Pipeline ransomware.
The seizure of such Bitcoins led to public speculation that Bitcoin is vulnerable to being hacked if an adversary has sufficient computation horsepower.
For a long time, Bitcoin’s strengths and weaknesses have been publicly known. With public perceptions scorching, as well as policymakers’ readiness to prosecute those attempting to take control of critical infrastructure, the desire to go after Bitcoin has reemerged.
The issue is that Bitcoin is pseudonymous, yet surely not anonymous. Even though Bitcoin possesses first mover advantage and has preserved an abundance of the residual network effect and associated value, rifts in the supposed anonymity protection are coming into the spotlight now.
Since the full, historical ledger is available to anyone to read, it is possible for blockchain forensic professionals to analyze traffic patterns involving a particular address. This renders it possible to match a standout payment pattern to a specific Bitcoin wallet address and follow the money to ultimately identify and potentially prosecute the actual owner.
Given that adequately motivated adversaries have had years of testing their forensic tracing technologies and theories, it was just a question of time before a target of adequate significance emerged to initiate their arsenal of cryptocurrency identification tools.
The United States government recently increased the intensity ranking of ransomware to that of terrorist activity, broadening the reach, mandate, and budget of governmental exertions to locate and eliminate it, even gradually overseas, if they trace it.
Many years ago, other cryptocurrencies (For instance, Monero) which placed an emphasis on privacy emerged and began to address Bitcoin’s transaction transparency, implementing things such as ring signatures and additional technical defenses against traceability. Nevertheless, many of the private coins struggled in their ability to become traded broadly enough to smoothly transact globally. That position continued to be centered around Bitcoin and subsequently Ethereum. Nonetheless, there is an abundance of others.
Although the wrath encompassing enormous payouts from ransomware appears to persist, attackers appear more likely to progressively the Bitcoin platform for payouts. Of the thousands of alternatives currently listed on one popular cryptocurrency trading platform, others in the top ten appear determined to advance toward the top spot, particularly if they get anonymity right.
Since markets ripen and users wish for a more comprehensive and vigorous platform, renewed focus on additional anonymous alternatives seem natural. All that is required is a crucial moment, and this could be it. Nevertheless, ransomware hackers continue to exist regardless of increased attention from law enforcement agencies. It is reasonable to expect that ransomware hackers will utilize alternative types of payment that are more suited at concealing their tracks.