The New Republic Thinks Banning Crypto Will Stop Ransomware Attacks. It Won’t.

Updated: a day ago

Look, we have to nip this narrative in the bud. The New Republic recently published a hit piece on cryptocurrencies. It relates them to Ransomware Attacks, references the DarkSide saga, and claims, “ It’s never been easier to hack a company, get paid for it, and escape scot-free.” Is it, though? What they conveniently left out was that a couple of days after the Colonial Pipeline hack, unnamed authorities seized DarkSide’s funds and dismantled their whole operation.

That omission completely invalidates The New Republic’s whole article, but let’s keep reading. A few paragraphs later, the author says: “there’s only one clear way to stop these increasingly destructive ransomware attacks: ban cryptocurrencies.” Oh yeah, what a novel idea. And, exactly how are the authorities going to accomplish that? The article doesn’t go that far. It stays in fantasyland until the end.

Are Ransomware Attacks Always Successful?

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that cryptocurrencies are banneable and keep reading. After explaining how a ransomware attack works, the author says:

As for the hacker, they can launder their proceeds by using various exchanges and payment processors that shuffle the cryptocurrency around before issuing the same amount of currency in a new wallet, without a payment trail.

That didn’t work that well for DarkSide, did it? And take into account that we’re talking about top-of-the-line cybercriminals with considerable resources at their disposal. Bitcoinist already told you the story:

A few days later, unnamed authorities seized DarkSide’s servers. And emptied their Bitcoin account. How did this happen? Nobody knows. Nevertheless, the group ímmediately announced their retirement. “Servers were seized (country not named), money of advertisers and founders was transferred to an unknown account,” reads a message from a cybercrime forum reposted to the Russian OSINT Telegram channel.

The blockchain is literally an unbreakable “payment trail.” The greatest ledger that has ever existed.

Are Cryptocurrencies Useless?

If you think the article has been dishonest so far, wait until you read this. The author admits that is “undoubtedly true” that “fiat money, like the dollar, is used for crime and corruption all the time.” And then gives us this gem:

Cryptocurrency’s main practical use, one could argue, is to facilitate crime and off-the-books financial transactions. That is not the case with the dollar, which is government-backed and sustains trillions in commerce every day.

Wow. The first part of the quote is such a bald-faced lie that it’s not worth discussing. New and incredible practical uses for cryptocurrencies keep appearing every day. Let’s focus on the second part. Those “off-the-books financial transactions” are forever registered in a public ledger. Each one. And no one can ever erase or alter them. How is that off-the-books?

After that, of course, the author goes into the already debunked crypto-wastes-energy debate. In any case, does the author of this piece even know that ransomware software comes from the NSA vaults? He would have a field day with that. He should probably read Bitcoinist, as we reported:

The hackers are able to use tools stolen from the NSA, like the Eternal Blue malware, to encrypt all the files on an infected machine, and then they demand a ransom, usually in Bitcoin, for the keys to decrypt the data.

A Solution To Ransomware Attacks

That same article proposes a sensible solution to the problem at hand:

A second bill, S7289, was proposed by New York Senator, David Carlucci, just days later. This bill would create funds to update the country’s aging cybersecurity infrastructure and make local and state systems less vulnerable to ransomware attacks.

The New Republic’s solution? A utopic and unenforceable ban:

To prevent public and private infrastructure from routinely being hobbled by foreign hackers, the first step is to rein in cryptocurrencies. Make these highly volatile, speculative, inherently valueless “coins” illegal or more difficult to trade in.

The author is hilarious in his madness, let’s give him that. He’s also dangerously ignorant about cryptocurrencies. What he doesn’t seem to be is a fan of personal responsibility. Is the cybersecurity team at those ransomware-attacked organizations not partially to blame here? Where there security tests routinely ran? Why are their systems so fragile?

An unspoken Internet rule says: If something can be hacked, it should be. Preferably sooner than later. That is the only way to build more resilient software. To expedite the process, tech companies developed bug bounty reward programs. Run one of those and white hat hackers from all over the world will test your systems and find possible exploits.

Where the attacked companies using all of these techniques? Probably not.

Is that cryptocurrencies’ fault? No. It is not.

This article by Eduardo Próspero originally appeared on 6/4/21

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

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