consumers to purchase cybercrime-as-a-service, hacking tools, malware, stolen credit card
details and compromised usernames and password combinations using Bitcoins.
Cryptocurrencies have also been involved in the facilitation of global ransomware attacks. In
May 2017, a ransomware attack known as WannaCry spread very quickly across the globe.
WannaCry, hailed as “the biggest ransomware outbreak in history”(F-Secure, 2017), affected
more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries in a matter of hours. This attack was particularly
damaging because it was not just a ransomware program but a worm, which looked for other
computers and systems to infect. WannaCry encrypted all ﬁles on the systems that it infected,
making them unavailable to the victim until a minimum of $300 in Bitcoin was paid to the
perpetrator(s). Three hardcoded Bitcoin addresses/wallets were used to receive the
ransomware payments. As of 20th June 2017, a total of 335 payments, totalling 51.91182371
Bitcoin or US$144,010.54, had been transferred into the three Bitcoin wallets (Twitter, 2017). In
June 2017, a major global wiper malware attack named “Petya”or “Not Petya”was released.
Although Petya was originally reported as a ransomware attack (The Sydney Morning
Herald), it was later reclassiﬁed as a destructive malware that was designed to irrecoverably
wipe the content of the computer. The Petya malware started in Europe, very quickly spread to
the USA and then started to affect systems in Australasia. Again, the perpetrators of this
attack requested US$300 to be paid in Bitcoins but they had no intention of restoring targeted
devices to a working state (The Hacker News, 2017).
The growth in ransomware attacks is not unexpected. What is unexpected is the speed at
which recent ransomware attacks have spread. In 2016, the US Department of Justice reported
that ransomware attacks spiked in 2015, averaging 4,000 per day, due, in part, to the growing u se
of Bitcoin for the collection of ransoms (Vigna and Rudegeair, 2017). Recent attacks have eclipsed
this ﬁgure in a few short hours. Although typical ransomware payments range from $US500 to
$US1,000, some hackers have demanded as much as US$30,000 to decrypt data (Vigna and
In 2012, the FBI expressed concerns about the difﬁculty of tracking the identity of
anonymous Bitcoin users and remonstrated how law enforcement agencies experienced
difﬁculty identifying suspicious users and obtaining records for Bitcoin transactions.
Unfortunately,these difﬁculties and challenges persist today.
Although much of what we hear about cybercurrencies, such as Bitcoin, is negative,
cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technology, upon which Bitcoin is based, have many signiﬁcant
beneﬁts which can positively impact the ﬁnancial quality of life of people in developing and
developed nations. For example, they enable the two billion “unbanked”or “underbanked”people
across the world, living without traditional ﬁnancial instruments and services, to operate a
cybercurrency account using their mobile phone. A further, and perhaps more signiﬁcant, beneﬁt
of cryptocurrencies is their capacity to revolutionise the remittance industry by reducing the
often-excessive transaction fees charged by other ﬁnancial service and remittance providers.
Bitcoin’s promise as a ﬁnancial technology platform has increasingly garnered the interest
of government and private sector leaders alike, especially the Australian Stock Exchange, as a
more efﬁcient means of post-trade settlement, and the banking industry, who have expressed
an interest in trialling blockchain-enabled trading. In total, 40 of the world’s largest banks have
tested a system that uses blockchain technology to trade bonds (Laughlin, 2016).
On 21 March 2016, the Australian government released a statement on its top priorities
for the country’sﬁntech future (AustralianGovernment, The Treasury, 2016a). In doing so,
it expressed its clear intention to become a global leader in emerging ﬁnancial services
technology. Treasurer,Scott Morrison, indicated the government’s keen interest in exploring
the applicability and utility of Bitcoin’s distributed ledger technology to mainstream
ﬁnancial service providers, particularly as it relates to international money transfers and