Bitcoin Criminals Target Australian Financial Sector -

Bitcoin Criminals Target Australian Financial Sector


Australian executives in the traditional finance are starting to get a bad taste in their mouths concerning Bitcoin. It seems that cyber-attacks involving digital currency ransoms are on the rise in the Aussie region, and banks are taking them seriously. On September 21, 2015, Australian banks sent letters to 17 native Bitcoin companies explaining that they would be terminating the companies’ bank accounts. The news came unexpectedly, and the banks gave no reasoning to why they sent these letters. We now know.

Also read: New Australian Law Attacks Piracy Websites

1443350628527Many people have heard of hacking attacks this past year involving Bitcoin ransoms. It seems that the digital currency is the choice for criminals trying to extort people online. The infamous CoinVault Ransomware made headlines everywhere in 2014, and has attacked roughly 1500 computers this year — mostly located in the US and Europe. 

The problems in Australia have arisen from a group that calls themselves “DD4BC,” which stands for “Distributed Denial of service for Bitcoin.” This organization has been plotting attacks on Australia’s financial sector, targeting institutions like Macquarie Bank and Westpac. Coincidentally, WestPac was one of the banks that sent letters to Bitcoin startups in the region.

The Australian government has initiated a new cyber security outfit called the Australian Cyber Security Centre, which will concentrate on attacks like this and similar models. They noted that they were well aware of the “extortion campaigns occurring May through July,” and that these attempts are directly targeted at banks, brokers, and Australian clearing-houses. ACSC coordinator Clive Lines said:

“Australia is experiencing increasingly sophisticated attacks on networks and systems in the public and private sectors, including the finance sector, If you are connected to the internet, you are vulnerable – financial markets and stock exchanges are not immune from this threat.” Clive Lines, ACSC

1443350628197DD4BC has demanded bitcoins from a broker in Australia, who gave press details about his attack. Rick Klink, online stock broker, told the Financial Review that he received a message on June 8 explaining that his business was being threatened with a DDOS attack. The hackers warned Klink that if he didn’t pay 25 bitcoins, the ransom would rise. Initially, the broker ignored the threat and did nothing. Despite this, the messages continued, and eventually they attacked Klink’s website. Luckily for Klink, it happened on a non-trading day, and his business was not affected much.

Throughout the ordeal, the broker refused to pay the criminals and decided to report the act to officials. Klink called cloud provider Amazon, the Australian Federal Police, and the newly built ACSC. The DD4BC group has launched roughly 150 attacks on businesses located in the UK, US and Australia. The cloud security provider Akamai reports that 58% of the group’s attacks were targeted at the finance sectors in these regions. The Financial Review stated that Westpac and Macquarie banks had not officially confirmed attacks made to their services. However, a Macquarie spokeswoman told the publication:  

“Denial of service incidents are a known feature of operating in a digital economy, Macquarie has appropriate systems and processes in place, including working with law enforcement and other financial institutions where appropriate, to ensure confidential data remains protected.”

hacker-archivesIt seems as if Australia’s financial sector has associated legitimate Bitcoin services with criminal organizations, and have severed ties with all digital currency providers in the country. This association is not a good sign for Bitcoin entrepreneurs in the region; legitimate businesses should not be affected by criminals tainting the Bitcoin image. The managing director of Bit Trade said that Bitcoin companies are willing to discuss the matter, however, “no one has been given the opportunity.”

Do you think its fair Australian Banks are terminating services with legitimate bitcoin services? Let us know in the comments below!


Jamie Redman

Jamie Redman is a crypto writer and a dragon on Tuesdays. Follow me on twitter @jamiecrypto

  • Leo Treasure

    Extortion is a serious crime that is made easier with Bitcoin. However, the criminals using Bitcoin are not necessarily in Australia. To catch these criminals requires a lot of international cooperation.

    If our Bitcoin industry is completely independent of our banks and our nation’s AML framework, our police will find it difficult to provide useful identifiable information to their overseas counterparts in relation to fraud/crimes committed using Bitcoin.

    Banks not engaging with Bitcoin businesses is making a mistake, they’re missing a huge opportunity to help our Bitcoin industry catch criminals who use Bitcoin.

  • thirdalbum

    I have a hard time believing that the two things are linked. For whatever motivation, the closing of bank accounts for law-abiding Bitcoin businesses is semi-legal but entirely unfair. It’s actually an extremely good demonstration of one of Bitcoin’s benefits: Bitcoin is an open system, anybody can be a part of it, and there is no central authority to “close your account”.

    It’s a very disappointing move by the banks involved and I hope they reverse their decisions.

    I’m also very disappointed that DD4BC is carrying out these attacks. I hope nobody pays a ransom to these criminals, and I would be pleased to see them face trial.

  • RJF

    You dont blame the hammer if someone hits you on the head with one. These banks are dinosaurs who dont see what is coming. They will be replaced in the future no matter how many law abiding accounts they close….

  • Gooseling

    Is extortion or attempts limited to digital currency only that does not seam to be worth it. 25 BTC 7500 USD wow make that double and its still not much for the effort and risk.

    The financial sector should give numbers on credit card fraud versus extortion attempts in Digital currencies.

    Why not give figures of money laundering done via Fiat that passes through the banking systems compared to laundering through Digital currency and its industry.

    Is it blame the competition to hide the truth.

    Isn’t Fiat easier to access and use, harder to trace when laundered

    Blockchain linked transactions have almost restrictive KYC in comparison to Fiat. and can be traced to a far greater extent than Fiat. .

    It can be easier to get a loan from a Bank than open a trading account in a digital currency exchange.

    Why are these issues never raised.