Bitcoin Ransomware Attacks Now on Hospitals

The ransomware attacks continue across the internet. In a latest trend, the hackers seem to have chosen healthcare centers and hospitals to be the next set of victims. A hospital in Kentucky, United States has become the most recent victim of ransomware attacks.

According to reports, the Methodist Hospital based in Henderson, Kentucky fell to a ransomware attack few days ago. As a result, many important files and computer systems were rendered useless after they were encrypted by the malware. The loss of access to these files and computers had forced Methodist hospital to declare an Internal State of Emergency. The same was announced on the hospital’s website as well.

The Methodist Hospital’s website had a red banner announcing that the hospital is currently operating in an internal state of emergency due to a computer virus attack. The hospital came under attack last Friday after receiving an email with a fake attachment. The attachment was labelled as an invoice, leading the personnel to open the file.

The Methodist Hospital was in the state of internal emergency for about 5 days. Now, the alert message on the website is gone and the hospital seems to be functioning normally.

The hackers had demanded a ransom of 4 BTCs in order to provide the decryption key for their files. However, it is not clear whether the hospital paid the ransom or not. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the ransomware attack.

Best Practices on the Internet

It is imperative to follow best practices and use updated security software on both home and office computers. Users should keep themselves safe from these attacks by not opening unknown attachments they receive in their mails and regular backup of important data will also helpful. It is also advisable to ignore the ransom demands and contact law enforcement agencies in case of a ransomware attack as there is no way to be sure about whether the hackers will provide the decryption key after the ransom is paid or not.

Ref: KerbsOnSecurity

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Bitcoin started off as a digital currency about 8 years ago. Today, the same digital currency and its underlying technology named blockchain has endless applications. Originally created to provide a decentralized solution to hold and transfer funds by eliminating trusted third parties like the government and banking institutions, the same technology is now being used to form governments.

Blockchain-based voting is an easy secure and a transparent way to conduct elections. The application of blockchain technology in elections has been around for a while now, except that it was not used on a big enough scale to become noticeable. The Republican party of Utah, United States has changed all of that now.

The Republican Party had implemented the blockchain based voting technology to elect a candidate for the presidential elections. This move has put the State of Utah in the books of Bitcoin history as the first state to implement online blockchain based voting technology in its elections.

The blockchain based voting system for the elections that were held yesterday was supplied by a London-based blockchain technology firm – Smartmatic. Smartmatic is an international blockchain solutions provider with presence in 8 differ countries. The company has also had experience implementing the blockchain technology for voting in 6 of these 8 countries. But this is the first time Smartmatic has provided the technology for complete online voting over blockchain in a large scale political election.

Republicans belonging to the State of Utah constituency were provided two options to cast their vote. Either they could walk into the nearest polling booth and cast their vote in a regular fashion or register online on the party website and cast the vote sitting in front of their computers. Once the voter registers on the site, the voter’s information would be verified to check whether that person is part of the Utah State Republican party or not. Once verified, the voter receives a cryptographic key to be used to cast the online ballot. Once the vote is submitted, it can’t be changed.

The use of online blockchain based voting system can be used make the whole voting process easy. It will also allow every eligible voter to exercise their right from no matter where they are on the day of the election. India already plays an important role in facilitating elections in many countries by supplying Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). These voting machines can be further improved by implementing blockchain technology based solutions.

Are you an Android phone user? Do you have an Android Bitcoin wallet application through which you conduct bitcoin transactions? If the answer is yes to any one of these two questions, then we have some bad news for you. A new security exploit may have left your phone vulnerable to remote hacking.

Most of the smartphone users in India user Android-powered phones. The recent security risk uncovered by Israeli security experts is called Stagefright exploit and it affects the smartphones running on Android versions 5.0 and 5.1. The phones affected by Stagefright bug are vulnerable to remote code execution, which will allow the hackers to access and execute programs on the affected phones without users’ knowledge. The Stagefright bug was discovered last year and it was found that most of the Android devices were vulnerable to the bug, that opened backdoors for hackers to access them. The vulnerability has since been fixed, but now a new iteration of the bug is again out there affecting a much smaller subset of Android devices. These devices running on Android Lollipop flavor make up to about 35 percent of all devices across the world.

The first security threat was immediately patched by Google’s engineers. Now, with the renewed threat, we are sure that the internet giant is all over it, trying to fix the vulnerability. However, it will take a bit longer for OEMs to patch the issue. Until then, it is advisable to not download any unauthorized applications on the device. If you are not sure whether your phone has already come in contact with the new iterated version of Stagefright, refrain from storing sensitive information or apps on the phone. Mobile bitcoin wallet and other banking app users should take extra care of their devices.

After all, it is better to be safe than sorry later.

Image Source

It is not a big secret that the banks are working on adopting blockchain technology in their operations. They intend to use Bitcoin’s underlying technology to create their own network to transfer funds between branches. The banking consortium consists of over 40 international banks, working together with a New York-based fintech company — R3CEV to create a blockchain solution that can replace the existing SWIFT network for overseas transfers.

According to reports, a new digital cryptocurrency has been developed by the computer scientists in the University College London. Called, the RSCoin, this digital currency prototype is developed in association with the Bank of England – the British central bank.

Unlike Bitcoin, which is a decentralized distributed digital currency, RSCoin is a centralized digital currency that borrows most of the important things from Bitcoin itself. The development of RSCoin started after the Bank of England expressed its interest in having a secure digital currency designed for potential use in the country.

Comparing RSCoin with Bitcoin, the former’s ledger will be completely under the control of central bank whereas no one person controls the Bitcoin distributed ledger. The creators of this coin believe that it will draw mass adoption as a trusted entity will be in charge of the digital currency that can do many things similar to that of bitcoin.

However, the very idea of Bitcoin is to prevent any single person or entity to exert control over the currency. People who adopt bitcoin do so, because of these advantages. RSCoin does just the opposite and it is still not sure how that will make any difference over existing electronic payment options for customers.

RSCoin has limited functionality in the face of already existing payment options from MasterCard and Visa which also enables P2P payments these days. Apart from taking away some part of the control from private and commercial banks, RSCoin may not do much to the monetary system.

Central Banks are definitely interested in digital currencies, but as long as these digital currencies are controlled by a central authority, Bitcoin will continue to stand apart.

Bitcoin scalability, block size, transaction delays are the hottest topics currently being discussed by the community at this time. In one of our previous posts, we mentioned about scalability issues plaguing the platform. To reiterate, the number of transactions on the platform have increased to levels beyond the processing capacity of the Bitcoin network. Increased load on Bitcoin network has created backlogs, causing transaction delays.

The transaction backlogs may lead to an indefinite delay in confirming bitcoin transactions as miners have very limited space on the blocks and they can’t add all transactions into it. So, miners tend to give more priority to transactions with higher miner fees as they tend to gain more out of it. At the same time, higher mining fee does not always guarantee faster confirmation.

Bitcoin wallet providers and exchanges are plagued by customer issues related to delayed transaction confirmations. in order to address these issues, they are increasing the miner fee for transactions happening in and out of their platforms. Recently, the CEO and Founder of Bitpay – Stephen Pair mentioned that their CoPay wallet uses a dynamic algorithm to set the optimal miner fee for transactions in order to ensure faster confirmations.

Increasing Miner Fee Reflected in Transaction Fee Hike

Bitpay is not the only Bitcoin platform taking the approach of increasing miner fee to ensure smooth transactions. Indian Bitcoin platforms have started following it as well. Unocoin, one of the leading bitcoin platform recently sent a mail to all its customers announcing changes in miner fees. Unocoin has doubled the miner fee on all transactions to 0.0002 BTC from the earlier 0.0001 BTC. While the platform collects a fixed miner fee of 0.0002 BTC, they will calculate and set the optimal miner fee for each transaction (even if it means they have to pitch in at times).

unocoin mailer

By ensuring the transactions are readily executed, Unocoin is attempting to earn its customer’s goodwill by making their life a lot easier.

ALSO READ ON NEWSBTC: Hard Fork is Not the Way to Scale Bitcoin, says Stephen Pair

The Bitcoin network has been facing some issues with respect to transactions lately. These issues mainly related to smaller block size and increased transactions led to a backlog in transactions, making transactions take longer than usual to be confirmed on the blockchain.

Bitcoin block-size has been fixed at 1 MB since it became operational. The 1 Mb limit was set in those initial days when the number of bitcoin users was merely a handful. The idea was to increase the block size as and when the network grows. The Bitcoin network, over the past few years, has exhibited phenomenal growth. With increased users, the number of transactions processed by the network also increases, With the block size remaining unchanged at 1 MB, there is not enough space on the blocks for miners to store more transaction data. The rate of block discovery and block capacity is not keeping up with the increase in transactions. All those transactions that are waiting in a queue for their turn to be confirmed are stored temporarily until their turn comes in a memory pool.

The delay in bitcoin payments has become unpredictable. Instead of the transactions getting confirmed in minutes, it is taking hours. Bitcoin users are not used to these delays and they are worried by the recent developments. According to reports, these worries has led to over 100 percent increase in the number of support tickets raised by users with their bitcoin wallet provider or exchanges.

The current block size is gradually making bitcoin transactions less economical. Increased demand for the confirmation of bitcoin payments has led to an increase in the miner fee. Even with higher miner fee, the network congestion has caused sufficient delays for priority transactions (miners give higher priority to transactions with higher miner fee). The Bitcoin community is currently exploring different ways to solve the block size issue and they are divided about whether to create a hard fork and increase the block size to 2 MB or opt for other methods like SegWit which doesn’t require a hard fork. Either way, we should have a solution soon before the Bitcoin network gets into more trouble that it is already in.

March 8 marks International Women’s Day, celebrated across the world as a symbol of women empowerment and encouragement. The celebration of Women’s Day is ingrained into the corporate culture where the companies show appreciation to their women employees by either sending out greetings, small gifts etc.

Coinsecure, one of the leading Indian bitcoin company has decided to celebrate International Women’s Day by using bitcoin to empower the women folk across in India and abroad. The company, in its blog and a mailer sent out to all its users, mention that intend to cater to the unbanked female population in India. in addition, the company also showcases the women in Coinsecure’s leadership in its blog post. As a commitment, Coinsecure has also announced that it will be looking forward to enabling more women use and trade bitcoin.

In other news, the Bitcoin company also organized an Ask Me Anything session on Twitter. Anyone with questions regarding Coinsecure or digital currency could send a tweet with their queries and a hashtag #AskAbiAnything. As per the response by the company’s Business Development Officer for one of the queries, Coinsecure will soon be launching an Android application. Until now, the trading platform has been available only on the web platform. With most Indians being predominantly Android users, it is not sure whether there will be an iOS application any time soon.

India is one of the emerging markets in the Bitcoin sectors. The Indian Bitcoin market is currently dominated by three major players – Coinsecure, Unocoin and Zebpay.

Unocoin is an alumni of Boost VC accelerator and it is also funded by Barry Silbert of the Digital Currency Group fame. On the other hand, Zebpay has an award winning mobile only platform available on both iOS and Android devices. The company recently announced a variety of new features on their application.

Criminals and pranksters are coming up with innovative ways to coax people into paying them ransom, that too in the form of bitcoin. These threats are sometimes serious enough to have the whole security apparatus of a region to go tizzy. The incident in question happened in Kolkata, India after an email was received by the officials at the Kolkata airport.

The email declared that a bomb has been planted in the airport and demanded 60 BTCs worth close to $25000 in ransom to prevent it from going off! The email presumably originated from Germany. As soon as the email was discovered, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in charge of airport security across the country deployed Quick Reaction Teams to search the premises and to conduct more thorough checks of passengers and baggage. Even aircraft were double checked to ensure that there are no explosive devices onboard. it is reported that the lack of clarity in the threat mail led to the ministry of civil aviation declaring high alert in all airports across the country.

There are many instances where the Airports across India have received hoax calls informing about a possible bomb or a hijacking attempt. These threats are never taken lightly and every time measures are taken to confirm and neutralize the possible threat. But none of these threat messages so far had included a bitcoin ransom note in it until now. The ease of transferring bitcoin and converting it to fiat currency of choice is being exploited by criminals. While some people think that bitcoin is an anonymous distributed digital currency, it is not true. Bitcoin is pseudonymous at best and transactions can be tracked. With few extra time and resources, the identity of parties to the transaction can also be identified.

The email incident is currently under investigation and the Cyber Crime Cell is trying to ascertain the origin of the email and the sender’s identity.

Ref: ToI

The leading Indian mobile bitcoin platform, Zebpay has today introduced a set of new features on its mobile application. Currently available only on Android platform, the new features allow users to set future buy and sell orders on the application.

Zebpay is the first Indian mobile only bitcoin platform available on Android and iOS platforms. So, far the feature rich platform has been offering its bitcoin wallet service along with an option to pay their postpaid mobile phone bills, recharge prepaid phone credits, exchange bitcoin for INR and vice versa. Zebpay also allows its users to buy prepaid gift cards for leading e-commerce, event ticketing and food platforms in the country with bitcoin.

According to the company’s press release, Zebpay has registered tremendous growth in the past 6 months. With over 25000 installs and crossing INR 20 crores turnover. With the new set of features, the company intends to attract the most serious users who are in tested in trading by leveraging upon the volatility of bitcoin prices. These new features allow Zebpay users to do the following:

Users can now choose to maintain their fiat balance alongside bitcoin balance in their Zebpay accounts. These balances can be used directly to buy or sell bitcoin instantly. The future trade option allows users set bid and ask prices of their choice. These orders will be executed once a matching offer is found. The future trade option allows users to decide the value they wish to get out of their bitcoin and fiat assets. Users will now be able to access blockchain transaction ids of their bitcoin transactions. This will help users track the status of their transactions. Earlier, it was not possible to access the transaction id on Zebpay, leading to people enquiring about their transaction status by calling the customer care.

Zebpay has come a long way since its inception. We believe that the company has few more surprises in the works which will be revealed soon.

India is going digital. Be it the recently launched Digital India campaign where the government of India wants to establish a digital locker for individuals to store the digital documents or the internet connectivity initiative where the government intends to provide a minimum 2 Mbps internet connection to all households. As part of the same initiative, the government has also pushed for increased adoption of digital payments by introducing few reforms in the recent days.

Until now, electronic fiat payments attracted an additional surcharge. The surcharge would range anywhere from 1 percent to 2 percent of the transaction amount. The surcharge was one of the factors that was holding back people from making payments with their credit and debit cards at outlets while buying goods and services. In order to maximize profit by avoiding the surcharge, many small shops used to pass the cost on to the customer by including an additional surcharge to the final bill amount. At the same time, banks waiving off surcharge on card usage used to bear the cost upon themselves.

In the cabinet meeting held late last month, the Government has decided to withdraw all surcharge, service charge and convenience fees that were so far associated with electronic transactions. This move is part of the government’s initiative to reduce cash transactions in order to minimize the operating cost of Reserve bank of India and also to keep track of money flow. By ensuring accountability of transactions, the government will be able to track and penalize tax defaulters and money launderers.

According to the proposal, there will be a maximum cap for cash transactions and any purchases made above that value has to be paid with a card, mobile banking or cheques. It will also minimize the influx and circulation of counterfeit currency as the use of higher denomination banknotes will drastically reduce with the introduction of new electronic payment measures.

Ref: Business Standard