Cybersecurity giant Kaspersky expects that the poverty caused by the ongoing pandemic and the countermeasures meant to halt its spread will cause crypto crime to grow.
In an article published on the official Kaspersky blog on Nov. 30, the firm forecasts crypto crime to grow in 2021. The post explains:
“The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause a massive wave of poverty, and that invariably translates into more people resorting to crime including cybercrime. We might see certain economies crashing and local currencies plummeting, which would make Bitcoin theft a lot more attractive. We should expect more fraud, targeting mostly BTC, due to this cryptocurrency being the most popular one.”
Kaspersky explains that the remote work solutions that the companies were forced to hastily set up amid the coronavirus pandemic have introduced vulnerabilities to their systems. The situation was reportedly so bad that “some literally did not even have enough laptops to provide to their employees” and “had to purchase whatever they found on the retail market, even if the machines did not comply with the security standards of the organization.” The article explains the far-reaching consequences:
“Those poorly configured machines had to connect to remote systems, something for which they were not prepared. Lack of employee training, default laptop configurations left unchanged and vulnerable remote access connections together made all sorts of attacks, including targeted ransomware, possible.”
The article also notes that “targeted ransomware” that is explicitly set up in a way to better attack an organization that can pay a high crypto ransom is “the new normal and a part of financial organizations’ threat models.” Now those attacks do not only encrypt the victim’s information—locking it away from the firm—but also publish it if the organization does not pay. Kaspersky explains:
“Another key point regarding ransomware is that this year has seen it exploit the human factor as an initial infection vector… When it comes to very high-profile targets, threat actors do not hesitate to spend time and resources to work within the MICE framework (Money, Ideology, Compromise and Ego) to get to victims’ networks.”
The company pointed to an attempt to place ransomware in the car-makers system by bribing an employee $500,000—a scheme which the Tesla employee promptly reported and was foiled by the FBI.
With law enforcement being increasingly able to track and—in some instances—even “intercept” and seize Bitcoin when it comes through third-party wallets (usually crypto exchanges) Kaspersky expects cybercriminals to start using other crypto assets. In particular, the cybersecurity giant expects them to increasingly use privacy coin Monero (XMR) “as a transition currency and then convert the funds to any other cryptocurrency of choice including BTC.”
Still, some believe that even using privacy coins like Monero won’t help cybercriminals too much. As Modern Consensus reported in early October, the United States Internal Revenue Service spent $1 million to develop tools that allow tracing the coin in question.