Threat Spotlight: Cryptocurrency In Email Threats
Apps Unveiled|July 2021
As the price of bitcoin rises and public interest in cryptocurrency grows, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the opportunities this creates for them to trick potential victims and increase the profits they can make from their attacks.
Fleming Shi

Traditionally used in extortion and ransomware attacks, hackers have now started to incorporate cryptocurrency into spear phishing, impersonation, and business email compromise attacks.

Until very recently you couldn’t use cryptocurrency in the real world to pay for day-to-day goods. However, as some companies started to announce that they will accept payments in bitcoin, it generated more interest in cryptocurrency and started to drive its value up. Fueled by the news frenzy surrounding bitcoin, its price increased by almost 400% between October 2020 and April 2021. Cyberattacks quickly followed with impersonation attacks growing 192% in the same period of time. Moreover, it has become the currency of choice for cybercriminals, all Because of the decentralized nature of cryptocurrency and lack of regulation.

THE DETAILS

Hackers use bitcoin to get paid in extortion attacks, where hackers claim to have a compromising video or information that will be released to the public if the victim does not pay to keep it quiet. While this scheme has been around for some time, as the price of bitcoin climbed, cybercriminals started to come up with more sophisticated schemes to cash in on bitcoin-mania.

Over the past eight months, Barracuda researchers have seen a number of phishing impersonations and business email compromise attacks related to cryptocurrency closely follow the increasing price of bitcoin. Hackers impersonated digital wallets and other cryptocurrency-related apps with fraudulent security alerts to steal log-in credentials. In the past, attackers impersonated financial institutions targeting your banking credentials. Today, they are using the same tactics to steal valuable bitcoins.

Cybercriminals have also included bitcoin as part of their business email compromise attacks impersonating employees within an organization. They target and personalize these emails to get their victims to purchase bitcoin, donate them to fake charities, or even pay a fake vendor invoice using cryptocurrency.

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