Tech 9 August 2018Ed Drake
Iranian hackers developing ransomware for BTC: report
Hackers in Iran are preparing new ransomware designed to extort BTC coins as the United States prepares to re-introduce sanctions against the country, according to cybersecurity experts.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, members of Accenture’s cybersecurity intelligence group revealed that a series of new ransomware applications are being developed which point back to Iran, noting that the hackers are relying on ransoms paid in BTC to fund the scams.
The news that Iranian hackers were allegedly accepting payments in BTC should pose a concern to U.S. businesses and government agencies when the sanctions fall into place, as well as those concerned about the image of the legacy coin.
The ransomware can be traced to Iran on account of messages left within the software in Farsi, as well as connections to computers based in the country. According to the Accenture report, there is some suggestion that the Iranian government could be sponsoring the developments, perhaps in response to the sanctions introduced by the United States.
Ransomware has proved problematic for businesses and government agencies for a number of years, with the likes of NHS Hospitals in the UK and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency amongst the high profile victims.
A number of ransomware applications have already been traced back to Iran, including Tyrant, an application originally designed to prevent Iranian citizens from avoiding government snooping. Similarly, other cybersecurity firms have identified data stealing scams running out of the country, with the new ransomware only the latest in a series of similar malicious scripts to emerge from Iran.
The Iranian government has denied any involvement in BTC ransomware scams, instead describing its own institutions as ‘victims’ of these types of attacks. The Stuxnet programme, initiated by the United States in partnership with Israel, is perhaps one of the most high profile examples, which managed to disable centrifuges for uranium enrichment around ten years ago when it was launched to specifically target Iranian nuclear development.
Since then, Iran has been known to have invested extensively in its cybersecurity resources, with the latest threats rumoured to be a new generation of ransomware technology.
As the U.S. prepares to roll out the sanctions again, it remains to be seen whether this ransomware will prove as devastating for government and commercial infrastructure as previous generations.
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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