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Bitcoin used for extortion demands

Bitcoin has grown in popularity this past year and along with that increase in use it has become a tool for cybercrime, reports The New York Times.

Commander Of U.S. Cyber Command Adm. Michael Rogers Addresses Cyber Security Conference
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Technology companies, especially tech startups are finding that payment in bitcoin is the choice of cyber thieves. The FBI over the past several months has been swamped with a wave of new cyberattacks known as DDoS or denial-of-service. This cybercrime wave has been with cyber attackers sending a flood of email traffic to the victim’s site, which disrupts business. The victims are contacted and told that they must pay a ransom for it to cease.

The small tech companies, such as Evernote, find demands are increased until they pay. The payment request of these cyber attackers are to be made in bitcoin payment. Sales orders and customer service along with supplier services cannot get online in the victim’s system due to the flood of email extortion requests.

Evernote of California which provides productivity service on your own notepad from their app is quick and efficient service but not so efficient when under cyberattacks.

The demand for ransom starts with a small amount of $200-300 hundred or roughly one bitcoin or less demanding upon bitcoin value at the time of request.

California is a popular target for extortion with bitcoin since California is the number one target in the world for cybercrime and Silicon Valley hosts the technology center of the world. Venture capital and Boost Accelerator Bitcoin program is in San Mateo which plans 100 Bitcoin startups within three years.

It is no surprise that on Thursday, Move, a San Jose, Calif. startup that provides online real estate services, was added to the list of online bitcoin extortion victims for the FBI to investigate.

At Moz, a marketing analytics firm, Anthony Skinner, the company’s chief technology officer, said in an interview that the initial request they received was for $200 to stop the attacks to their system. The company refused to pay and the ransom was increased to $2000. Skinner explains that they signed up for services like CloudFlare, who provides services to mitigate risks and DDoS attacks.

Unfortunately, the attacker has found new ways to attack their system. “If we move one way, they come after us a different way,” Skinner said and added, “It’s a game of cat-and-mouse at this point.”

Working with other bitcoin ransom request victims does not work either according to Skinner. The attackers cover their trail with anonymity software and can flood companies from thousands of different IP addresses. If you open email then the addresses probably contain bots or worse. The computers are infected with malware that adds to the hackers’ attacks upon a business computer system.

The FBI is aggressively looking at a group or groups on their list of potential cyber attackers but it requires time and time is loss of money to these business owners.

The answer will require that computer security experts build a better mouse trap and it is not without a ground swell movement of developing talent in this area. Stephen Cobb, Senior Security Researcher for ESET North America, world-wide security firm for anti-virus and physsing, states that there is a shortage in security network professional jobs. April had a post of 7800 jobs for cyber security experts and it is growing 20 percent a year.

ESET provides a week long Cyber Boot camp each June for the High School student winners of the San Diego Mayors’ Cyber Cup held annually at the UC San Diego in March. This year’s boot camp students have just completed the week long training in how these cyber attackers hack into a computer so they can learn how to prevent cyber-attacks.

It is a new era of how to steal and is now a time of computer to computer expert combat online. Cyber war has begun and the government and businesses know this reality check. The Pentagon and the FBI are seeking 6000 cyber security professionals to staff an army of defenders by 2016

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