Cybersecurity specialist Kaspersky foresees a rise in crypto crime ahead as the COVID-19 epidemic hits national economies.
In a report on financial threats for 2021, based on data and patterns from this year the company said Monday that attacks aimed at stealing bitcoin will “become more attractive as many nations plummet into poverty as a result of the pandemic.”
The compounding factor of weakening local currencies amid the crisis will also drive people to cybercrime, leading to more bitcoin fraud as well as theft, the firm predicted. It said the focus would be on bitcoin because it is “the most widespread cryptocurrency.”
In a change of tactic, Kaspersky also sees online criminals moving away from bitcoin when demanding ransoms or payments from victims. The use of “transition currencies” with privacy-enhancing features, such as monero, will see greater use as a way to hide criminals’ tracks, the firm said, and will be later converted to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
This shift is being driven governments’ improved crypto sleuthing capabilities when it comes to monitoring, deanonymizing and seizing crypto accounts, per the report. The firm cites the recent seizure of funds worth over $1 billion by the U.S. Justice Department from a Silk Road-linked account.
Targeted ransomware attacks, which generally demand payment in cryptocurrency, are also expected to rise, having seen “successful operations and extensive media coverage this year.”
“Organizations, which may be hurt by the loss of data and exhausting recovery processes, are in the crosshairs, with more cybercriminals targeting them with ransomware or DDoS attacks or even both,” Kaspersky said.