Your computer’s been hacked by the WannaCry, also sometimes referred to as Wcry or WannaCrypto, ransomware. Your data is scrambled and the cyber extortionists will only free your virtual possessions from encryption prison if you pay up in bitcoins.
Turns out it’s not so easy to convert your Benjamins to bitcoins. Consequently, reports ArsTechinica, even though thousands of computer systems around the globe got hit by the malware on Friday, by late Monday barely $71,000 in ransom had been paid.
That’s partly because so many people refused to pay. But it’s also because paying in bitcoin can be daunting. Mashable, along with several other tech outlets, are reporting that the folks holding data hostage have been working with their victims to understand and use bitcoins.
“WannaCry’s step-by-step instructions to victims rival the help pages of some major tech companies,” the site said.
The attack, powered partly by tools leaked from the National Security Agency, created new demand for bitcoins from users who’d previously had no use for it. Still, several sites that track its value, including Coindesk, find that its value hasn’t been boosted dramatically by the malware attack. There have been ups and downs, but it was barely higher Wednesday morning than it was before the WannaCry extortionists set IT folks bawling.
Don’t be fooled by graphic sketches of bitcoins. This is a digital-only currency. There’s no real coin. You’ll never hold one in your hand.
Bitcoin is a digital currency untethered to banks or sovereign treasuries. It fuels anonymous transactions, so it’s popular for laundering funds or among people who want to keep their financial transactions out of view.
That’s why it’s popular for ransomware scams, where hackers seize control of a computer or maliciously encrypt someone’s data.
Below is an explanation of bitcoins from the Associated Press:
How bitcoins work
Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not tied to a bank or government and allows users to spend money anonymously. The coins are created by users who “mine” them by lending computing power to verify other users’ transactions. They receive bitcoins in exchange. The coins also can be bought and sold on exchanges with U.S. dollars and other currencies.
How much is it worth?
One bitcoin recently traded for $1,734.65, according to Coinbase, a company that helps users exchange bitcoins. That makes it more valuable than an ounce of gold, which trades at less than $1,230.
The value of bitcoins can swing sharply, though. A year ago, one was worth $457.04, which means that it’s nearly quadrupled in the last 12 months. But its price doesn’t always go up. A bitcoin’s value plunged by 23 percent against the dollar in just a week this past January. It fell by the same amount again in 10 days during March.
Why bitcoins are popular
Bitcoins are basically lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to the next. Transactions can be made anonymously, making the currency popular with libertarians as well as tech enthusiasts, speculators – and criminals.
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