Monero has recently hit the headlines. Towards the end of August 2016, the prices of the privacy-centric cryptocurrency Monero began to spike immediately after Oasis and AlphaBay (the leading darknet markets) announced that they would integrate Monero.
On August 19, 2016, Oasis announced on both of their marketplace forums that they would start using Monero.
Three days later, on 22nd August, AlphaBay made a similar marketplace announcement that they will integrate Monero as a payment source.
Arguably, the darknet operators such as Oasis and AlphaBay are interested in privacy and anonymity.
It is to no surprise that they identified Monero from the first time it came into existence.
For a long time, Bitcoin has dominated the darknet as the de facto currency for ransomware merchants, but the recent realization that this form of payment is not completely anonymous, many people are looking for more secure alternatives.
And Monero makes the top cut.
Security experts Webroot predict that Monero will replace Bitcoin soon as the preferred currency of ransomware merchants on the darknet.
Why? Ransomers are keen to improve their safety and privacy now more than ever.
We are at a turning point where many people realize that using Bitcoin and being private is not easy since your OPSEC with Bitcoin relies on the OPSEC of others in the long run.
“The primary objective of developing Monero is to create a digital currency that enables user privacy to the furthest extent possible,” The Monero developer Riccardo Spagni said.
“If a person sends you money, for example, into your bank account, they should not be able to tell your bank balance.
Or if you make online credit card payments, they should not be able to know your bank balance,” he added.
Monero has been around for almost two years, but why is it gaining fame now?
Perhaps the recent loss of $60 million in Bitcoin from Hong Kong exchange Bitfinex has a hand in this or the ransomware authors just want to enhance their security and take their privacy to the next level.
According to Tyler Moffitt, a threat research analyst as well as a cryptocurrency security expert at Webroot, it is more likely that we will see a ransomware take up Monero as their source anytime soon.
Further, he noted that it is easier to accept Bitcoin currency and later exchange it for Monero.
This has not come as any big surprise because cybercriminals want a currency that is untraceable and secure to avoid detection from such firms as Chainalysis; they are certainly going to exchange all the Bitcoins for Monero very soon.
Admittedly, the Bitcoin industry has been thriving and growing rapidly because of its overwhelming help to the ransomware authors.
Typically, the authors will create an algorithm that will send a bunch of Bitcoins to many wallet addresses to and fro to avoid being tracked.
However, the government in collaboration with the crypto-tech companies has come up with tools that can break the algorithm.
As a result, the cybercriminals will definitely shift their focus to Monero which is otherwise more secure and untraceable.
Unlike Bitcoin, Monero uses the CryptoNote protocol and some algorithmic differences regarding the blockchain obfuscation.
This makes the Monero transactions safe; they cannot be traced, and this means that the identity of both the sender and the receiver of the coins is completely protected – a significant feature that Bitcoin inherently lacks.
Webroot uses its machine learning capabilities to detect all behaviors and trends in space.
For example, they have noted that all ransomware are keen to leave the VSS (Volume system shadows) admin.
The VSS allows you to have and restore files, but ransomware kills those to ensure that nothing touches the VSS.
Moffitt said that ransomware has evolved to be a smooth area without any friction when payments are made.
The criminals have put in place measures to align their payments such as coming up with Bitcoin wallets and installing layered Tor browser, to improve their privacy.
They have also encrypted their messages that are uniquely directed to the receiver only, and they only display once.
They can direct you on how to do something from start to finish, but surprisingly they cannot be caught.
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