Authorities have had trouble estimating the number of victims because many do not report their problem and quietly pay the price. But in late 2014, Dell SecureWorks said CryptoWall had infected over 800,000 computers. New versions of the malware, going by names like TorrentLocker and Dirty Decrypt, have popped up frequently since then.
A police department in Durham, New Hampshire that was hit by CryptoWall in June 2014, refused to hand over the ransom and was able to revert to backup files. But more recently, police departments in Dickson County, Tennessee, and Tewksbury, Massachusetts, have said that they chose to pay the roughly $500 ransom rather than deal with the headache of trying to circumvent the hackers.
Beyond these attacks, extortionists went after two longtime bitcoin advocates last year, threatening to exploit personal information about the men’s families if they did not pay up.
When one of the men, Hal Finney, refused to submit, the assailant called the local police and reported a murder at Finney’s home, resulting in a SWAT team taking over the home, the family has said. The other victim, Roger Ver, threw off his attacker by offering a bitcoin bounty of roughly $US20,000 for his attacker’s arrest.
Some leaders in the bitcoin community have suggested potential ways to fend off the ransom threats, digitally marking any coins used for ransom payments, similar to how dollar bills used in hostage situations are marked with invisible dye. But such solutions have been held up because of the value that many bitcoin believers have put in the virtual currency’s unfettered free movement.
New York Times
Originally appeared at: http://www.afr.com/opinion/columns/for-ransom-bitcoin-replaces-the-bag-of-bills-20150726-giknl0