Bitcoins are becoming a common payment method on cyber black markets, according to security firm Webroot.
Webroot researcher Dancho Danchev has reported uncovering a cyber black market accepting Bitcoins as payment for a keylogger.
"Next to accepting PayPal and consequently all major credit cards, we've been observing an increase in market propositions starting to accept Bitcoins," wrote Webroot's Danchev. "The keylogger is currently available for $35. The author is also manually ensuring that it remains undetected by all major antivirus vendors on a systematic basis, and is currently accepting PayPal, Liberty Reserve, Moneypak, and as of recently, Bitcoin."
Bitcoins are a digital currency created in 2008, which allow instantaneous, semi-anonymous online transactions to be made. The anonymous nature of the currency has seen them become favoured by many criminal groups, who use them as a means to hamper law enforcement's ability to track them. Danchev said evidence suggests that the market's decision to accept Bitcoin payments has little to do with the currency's security benefits and is purely financially motivated.
"Considering the fact its author is OPSEC-unaware compared to his Russian and Eastern European 'colleagues', the use of Bitcoin in this particular case appears to be more of a way for him to diversify the ways through which he's accepting payments, rather than a practice aimed at improving his OPSEC (Operations Security) or anonymity," said Danchev.
The Webroot researcher said despite the expansion, criminals will generally continue to prefer more established payment methods such as Liberty Reserve and Web Money.
"Despite the numerous international underground market propositions accepting Bitcoin that we're currently aware of, we expect that the buzz surrounding the virtual currency will only affect the international marketplace, with limited impact for the majority of Russian and Eastern European cybercriminals, who we think will continue relying on Liberty Reserve and Web Money as their primary way of accepting and sending payments," wrote Danchev.
"[These are processes] they've practiced to perfection over the years, largely thanks to easily obtainable fake IDs and passports, the overall availability of money mules participating in the cybercrime ecosystem, and cybercrime-friendly virtual currency processing providers."
The discovery of the marketplace accepting Bitcoin payments comes amidst wider warnings from the security community that hackers are developing new and more dangerous attack strategies. Most recently the UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills said in its 2013 Information Security Breaches Survey that the new attacks are costing SMEs as much as £65,000 per incident.
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