Will Criminals Start Kidnapping People and Asking for Ransomware in Bitcoin?

Some of the very first associations that the wider public made with Bitcoin upon learning about it were fairly focused on its potentially nefarious connotations. That being said, Bitcoin can still be used for criminal activities. This is most noticeable in the recent wanna cry ransomware attacks and fileless ransomware attacks. So does this mean -like a comment on this linked article suggested- that soon criminals will move beyond ransomware to straight up kidnap and ransom in the physical world?

Well, maybe. If someone is willing to accept any form of payment for any legal or illegal deal, then that currency has worth. Bitcoin would be no different in this case than say, cash or bearer bonds. Both of these are extremely anonymous forms of payment, more so than Bitcoin even.

Ransoms being paid in dead drops or trades means that a criminal would be exposing themselves to being followed after the exchange takes place. A wire transfer to a bank means that they would be immediately identified, so Bitcoin being moved to a new address would mean that this would be delayed. However, it would not be untraceable.

Let’s put ourselves in the hypothetical that we are trying to negotiate the release of a hostage, and their kidnappers demanded payment in Bitcoin. This means that we have some time to “buy bitcoin” since most probably would not have stores of Bitcoin ready for kidnapping situations. If it is a large enough amount, we need to wait for verification from an exchange, and in some countries we would need to report these assets. Some countries also monitor the blockchain for large payments made. Law enforcement may already have pegged this situation before the payment is ever even made.

With the help of law enforcement or others, the public ledger nature of Bitcoin would mean that we could start to build a strategy to try to keep track of these funds, even as they undoubtedly will go through tumblers and mixers. Let’s not forget again, the likelihood that this much money exchanged hands already has probably tipped off the cops if we have not by this point.

There is also the possibility that the -probably uneducated in Bitcoin- payer of the ransom does not know how many satoshi per byte to pay for a quick confirmation or even one at all. Delayed or cancelled payments does not only spell disaster for the victim, but also is problematic for the kidnappers. Let’s remember, these people want money, not to feed, hide, or abuse and kill the victim.

While Bitcoin might provide security by not having to be present at an exchange or dead drop, it has a whole host of other problems. I do not see how Bitcoin would be easier or even more appealing to higher level criminals like this over cash or some other commodity. Too few people know about it, Blockchain analysts work tirelessly to connect addresses to personal information, and for larger sums of money it is just not as practical as other payment methods.

I am not saying that criminals do not use or will not use Bitcoin -because they do-, but I do not think we have to worry about kidnappers asking for ransoms only in Bitcoin in the future. In the end, they want money, not Bitcoin. That is how criminals always have operated. They want easily laundered and liquid monetary assets. Bitcoin may not be the most practical option for them in such a situation.

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  • Spencer Rhodes

    Bitcoin is a secure, effective, and convenient method of transferring funds between two parties who do not trust each other without the need for any third party intermediary. So… of course criminals are going to use it. So are political activists, aid organizations, grandchildren working in the UK who want to send money to help their ailing grandparents in Liberia… not to mention every company that does cross-border business. Bitcoin solved the problem of trying to bring money into the digital age, and does so while putting 9/10 bankers out of a job.

  • Russell Spears

    BITCOIN IS FOR THE PEOPLE: GOVERNMENT FIAT CURRENCIES IS FOR CRIMINALS

    Bitcoin will adopt to a free market and always move to a level of difficulty that secures if from being subject to mass surveillance (meaning the level of difficulty to record and identify every transaction will be too much for any government in terms of energy or budget); However, I think it will be easy enough for any government body to follow and trace individual transactions (I say this, because a free market would not be concerned with the risk criminals have).

    Using Bitcoin for criminal activity sounds stupid, even on the face of it: Because it creates a permanent record of every transaction! Every transaction!!!!! This means that at anytime the law identifies one user who is part of your criminal activity and links them to a bitcoin address, they can link together your whole network and people who are in contact with your members: This should be reason enough to stay clear of Bitcoin!

    The guy/girl/group that invented Bitcoin can’t move the Bitcoin or he/she/they risk exposing their identity to the world -who is watching his addresses.

    Bitcoin is the only free market activity I have studied, everything else is infused with monopolies and artificial controls. In a free market, bad actors are a liability (They will not gain support), and making the Bitcoin network more secure than what it takes to create a comfortable level for the majority of users will only cost more to the network and get too much push back from government. It will encourage a level of difficulty, however, if too many people start using other altcoins which are more encrypted. The large group of users of more encrypted cryptocurrencies will represent an incentive to Bitcoin to raise its difficulty. These two dynamics will always rest on a free market level of anonymity for its users.

    IF YOU WANT REAL ANONYMITY, THEN STICK WITH THE US DOLLAR: THAT IS THE BEST MONETARY INSTRUMENT EVER MADE!

    I see no reason why Bitcoin won’t find a happy medium in a free market. Bitcoin is the first meta-currency for all people who use it for lawful purposes.

  • CryptoLife

    Why even suggest it by using such a headline. The same applies to all these media outlets publishing the bitcoin bubble headlines. They become self fulfilling prophecies.