The perpretrators of the global cyberattacks which infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries are demanding “ransom” money in bitcoins- a virtual currency which affords anonymity.
The message that flashed up on hundreds of thousands of screens infected by the WannaCry virus over the last few days demanded payment of $300 (275 euros) in Bitcoin, saying: “Ooops, your files have been encrypted!”
It warned that if payment was not made within three days the price would double, and if none was received within seven days the locked files would be deleted.
“Bitcoin is digital cash. The transactions are totally anonymous and non-refundable. However they are totally traceable”, Nicolas Debock of London-based Balderton Capital that specialises in virtual currencies said.
“All the transactions are stored in databases called blockchains. It’s anonymous but anyone can monitor a bitcoin address and see how the money moves,” Debock said.
“No-one can take the money off those who hold it, but it is possible to follow in detail the activity on the account.”
According to researchers, the global WannaCry “ransomware” cyberattack that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday has been linked to North Korea.
Symantec and Kaspersky Lab said on Monday that some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry software had also appeared in programmes used by the Lazarus Group, which researchers from many companies have identified as a North Korea-run hacking operation.
Tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries were affected last week by a global cyber-attack using hacking tools believed to have been created by the US National Security Agency (NSA).