How Ransomware Gangs Are Fueling a New Cybersecurity Arms Race | #ransomware | #cybercrime

Trading options in Chicago, Matthew Leidlein made a living off volatility. These days he’s into Bitcoin, though not for its wild price swings. Rather, he’s lending it to companies being extorted by ransomware gangs. Clients this year included a local government in Mississippi that paid a ransom of more than $250,000 in crypto to end an attack that took down county systems for almost three weeks.

“These threats are a reality for anybody that has data on the internet,” says Leidlein, 47. His firm, Digital Asset Redemption, has lent more than $90 million in crypto in around 175 incidents this year.

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Ransomware is booming, with Bitcoin at the heart of it. Attacks have surged in recent years, often using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for ransom payments and trafficking in stolen data. Attacks hit a wide range of targets, including large and small companies, hospitals, schools, and government entities.

Crypto has legitimate backers and applications. Firms like Fidelity and BlackRock may soon win approval to launch exchange-traded funds holding Bitcoin—a prospect that has pushed up the token’s price more than 150% this year. A vast blockchain-based ecosystem is also developing for trading, payments, and other apps. 

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