Australian executives in the traditional finance are starting to get a bad taste in their mouths concerning Bitcoin. It seems that cyber-attacks involving digital currency ransoms are on the rise in the Aussie region, and banks are taking them seriously. On September 21, 2015, Australian banks sent letters to 17 native Bitcoin companies explaining that they would be terminating the companies’ bank accounts. The news came unexpectedly, and the banks gave no reasoning to why they sent these letters. We now know.
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Many people have heard of hacking attacks this past year involving Bitcoin ransoms. It seems that the digital currency is the choice for criminals trying to extort people online. The infamous CoinVault Ransomware made headlines everywhere in 2014, and has attacked roughly 1500 computers this year — mostly located in the US and Europe.
The problems in Australia have arisen from a group that calls themselves “DD4BC,” which stands for “Distributed Denial of service for Bitcoin.” This organization has been plotting attacks on Australia’s financial sector, targeting institutions like Macquarie Bank and Westpac. Coincidentally, WestPac was one of the banks that sent letters to Bitcoin startups in the region.
The Australian government has initiated a new cyber security outfit called the Australian Cyber Security Centre, which will concentrate on attacks like this and similar models. They noted that they were well aware of the “extortion campaigns occurring May through July,” and that these attempts are directly targeted at banks, brokers, and Australian clearing-houses. ACSC coordinator Clive Lines said:
“Australia is experiencing increasingly sophisticated attacks on networks and systems in the public and private sectors, including the finance sector, — If you are connected to the internet, you are vulnerable – financial markets and stock exchanges are not immune from this threat.” — Clive Lines, ACSC
DD4BC has demanded bitcoins from a broker in Australia, who gave press details about his attack. Rick Klink, online stock broker, told the Financial Review that he received a message on June 8 explaining that his business was being threatened with a DDOS attack. The hackers warned Klink that if he didn’t pay 25 bitcoins, the ransom would rise. Initially, the broker ignored the threat and did nothing. Despite this, the messages continued, and eventually they attacked Klink’s website. Luckily for Klink, it happened on a non-trading day, and his business was not affected much.
Throughout the ordeal, the broker refused to pay the criminals and decided to report the act to officials. Klink called cloud provider Amazon, the Australian Federal Police, and the newly built ACSC. The DD4BC group has launched roughly 150 attacks on businesses located in the UK, US and Australia. The cloud security provider Akamai reports that 58% of the group’s attacks were targeted at the finance sectors in these regions. The Financial Review stated that Westpac and Macquarie banks had not officially confirmed attacks made to their services. However, a Macquarie spokeswoman told the publication:
“Denial of service incidents are a known feature of operating in a digital economy, — Macquarie has appropriate systems and processes in place, including working with law enforcement and other financial institutions where appropriate, to ensure confidential data remains protected.”
It seems as if Australia’s financial sector has associated legitimate Bitcoin services with criminal organizations, and have severed ties with all digital currency providers in the country. This association is not a good sign for Bitcoin entrepreneurs in the region; legitimate businesses should not be affected by criminals tainting the Bitcoin image. The managing director of Bit Trade said that Bitcoin companies are willing to discuss the matter, however, “no one has been given the opportunity.”
Do you think its fair Australian Banks are terminating services with legitimate bitcoin services? Let us know in the comments below!