The founder of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s internet enforcement bureau warned Thursday that investors in bitcoin and other digital currencies are helping online hackers.
“Ransomware is hitting everywhere and they’re all collecting it in bitcoin because there’s no way they’re going to get caught. So you’re also enabling it,” John Reed Stark, now head of his own cybersecurity firm told in an interview to CNBC.
Stark stated cryptocurrencies have almost no practical use, in contrast trading them to the speculation that previously boosted AMC Entertainment and other meme stocks like GameStop to great heights. Cryptocurrencies also require registration and other procedures that would improve the visibility of U.S. capital markets, he added.
“At least with GameStop and AMC you’re not necessarily hurting anyone. … But with crypto, you are really hurting a lot of people, and that sort of risk I don’t think is a good one for society,” Stark said.
He also called crypto the essence of ransomware, a type of malicious software that can disrupt and even block computer networks.
Brazil’s JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, has resumed most production after a weekend ransomware attack, the latest in a line of hacks. JBS blames hackers to have links with Russia.
In May, Colonial Pipeline, the largest US fuel pipeline, paid ransomware demands last month after its operations were shut down for nearly a week. The FBI estimates the attack on Colonial Pipeline was carried out by DarkSide, which is a Russian-linked group that demanded $5 million to restore service. DarkSide eventually shut down after receiving $90 million cryptocurrency payments and last year, roughly $406 million in crypto payments were made to cyberattackers.
“The country is kind of falling apart from ransomware all because of crypto, and the main reason people own crypto is because they think someone else will buy it and make the price higher,” said Stark, who spent 18 years at the SEC’s Enforcement Division. “There’s no other reason to invest in it,” he stated.
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