Ransomware is set to become the biggest malware threat of 2016.
According to security researchers, compared to the last quarter of 2015, the number of attacks rose by 30 percent from January to March in 2016 alone and they detected 2,900 modifications to the ransomware variants in the same period.
This surge in the popularity of ransomware with cybercriminals could only mean one thing: It's profitable.
It is estimated that attackers are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars each month by targeting a massive number of computers every day.
The currency of choice for ransomware? Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is the secure and untraceable digital payment system of the internet. Released in 2009 by an entity called Satoshi Nakamoto as a direct peer-to-peer virtual cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is now the preferred payment method for Dark Web transactions and cybercrimes due to its anonymous nature.
Is Bitcoin's growth contributing to this surge in ransomware attacks?
According to security researcher David Emm, there's a definite correlation:
"It's helping. I think that's definitely true. The existence of effectively anonymised payment mechanisms definitely plays into the hands of cybercriminals."
Although online money scams existed before the era of Bitcoin, criminals used to extort payments through other online payment systems like PayPal and they even attempted to have cash and checks sent through traditional postal services.
The main issue with these payment systems? They are still traceable.