Bitcoin , the peer-to-peer transaction service, made headlines for the wrong reasons a few days ago. Hackers behind the WannaCry cyber attack demanded 'ransom' in the cryptocurrency for releasing 'hostage' computers under their control.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital token that is computer generated and not printed or minted physically like a country's currency. It is created and held electronically in a single
person, bank, authority has control over it. It works like conventional currency and is traded globally.
Developed by anonymous programmer Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin has been popular among the masses for being cheaper and faster means of transaction without intervention from any third party. The USP of bitcoin, however, remains in the fact that it cannot be traced back to those availing it. The demand of the largest and oldest among cryptocurrencies is high as it is untraceable by security agencies and does not require physical storage spaces that can be raided by authorities.
Why do hackers love it?
By virtue of this anonymity, potential for use criminal or malicious usage has been associated with bitcoin since its inception. Even earlier this year, experts believed there was a rush following the demonetisation announcement as many traders exchanged their black money against bitcoins.
The only record of transactions is an online ledger created through blockchain technology , which is anonymous and can be manipulated in a secure way without help from any third party, unlike a bank's ledger is connected to a centralised network.
The hackers may very well take your money and leave without releasing the encrypted files. It will be difficult to bring them to justice as there is no mechanism to track them down through their bitcoin transactions.
How can bitcoins be cashed?
Once in acquiring bitcoin currency, hackers can spend them in very many ways. They can simply go to a bitcoin exchange that pays cash in preferred currency in lieu of bitcoins. Or they can use it to make online transactions and purchases. Even renowned names like PayPal support bitcoin, which makes it easier for hackers to cash them.
How much are the WannaCry ransomware hackers demanding?
What may seem out of the ordinary is the denomination that the hackers behind WannaCry have demanded in bitcoins: $300. This might feel like anti-climax for a global cyber attack which affected government offices, school and hospitals among many, but is a well thought move. The rising valuation of the largest and oldest cryptocurrency is a testament to that.
On the day of the attack, bitcoin values climbed to an all-time high of $1,830 (Rs 1.17 lakhs), according to a Washington Post report. As of now, it stands on $1719 (Rs 1.1 lakhs). On May 11, when WannaCry had first hit the computer systems, some experts speculated the price of one bitcoin to rise to as much as $3000 by the end of this year, reported the Washington Post.