In the days since a rogue ransomware virus exploded across the globe last weekend, infecting systems in more than 150 countries with a program that threatened to wipe a computer's data unless the target paid off the anonymous hackers, hundreds of thousands of machines have come under attack. But as the dust settles, one true victim has emerged: Bitcoin.
When news of the hack first emerged Friday, there was some unlikely optimism in the cryptocurrency community. The hackers wanted their spoils paid out in bitcoin, and hope soon emerged that a massive influx of corporate lucre might provide some much-needed support bitcoin's already-stratospheric price, which had showed some signs of weakening late last week.
On the hyperactive r/bitcoin Reddit community, one user asked“Is WannaCry affecting Bitcoin's price?” The top response: “Yeah, it's making it way stronger!” On another thread, user Swole_Monkey pondered the ramifications:
Best case scenario everyone pays the 300 bitcoin. More demand = higher price[...] And then the hackers get busted and they hide the offline wallets before the cops get to them and thus removing them from the market flow = higher price
The bitcoin news community also entertained the possibility that the hack would redound to their benefit. “Bitcoin income from WannaCry ransomware attacks expected to increase,” read the headline at Brave New Coin. At CoinTelegraph, author Joseph Young advised readers to “Keep calm and buy Bitcoin,” pointing to the number of major media headlines informing lay readers in the wake of the hack how to buy into the digital payment platform often called a “currency”:
It didn't take long for those hopes to be dashed. Analysis of bitcoin flows has shown just under $70,000 has trickled into the ransomers' address so far, owing largely to the hackers' bungling incompetence. Despite a little rally Tuesday, bitcoin's price is still down 3 percent from is level last Friday when the world learned of the malware pandemic. Alas, the ransom rally did not materialize.
What did materialize was a fair amount of bad press, not all of it entirely fair. The largest malware attack in history relied on bitcoin only because the cryptocurrency happens to be ideal for money laundering (or at least nearly so). Yet bitcoin has had to suffer for the sins of WannaCry. “This is some negative publicity for bitcoin,” investor Brian Kelly told CNBC. That millions of people around the world likely learned of bitcoin's existence in relation to a ransom attempt can't help its image.
So if you or your employer has seen computers freeze up and demand illicit payment over the past few days, don't curse your fate. Instead, pour one out for bitcoin.