GREENFIELD – Hackers who targeted Hancock Health last week demanded ransom in bitcoin, an online currency experts say is nearly impossible to trace.
Bitcoin allows for people to make transactions online without disclosing their identity, according to its website.
At press time, one bitcoin was worth approximately $14,082. The hacker who seized Hancock Health held its server access for a ransom of four bitcoin, which at the time equaled about $55,000.
Bitcoin payments are more difficult to track than traditional transactions as little user information is disclosed in any bitcoin settlement, said Jeff Woker, president of Wowlinx Computer Consultants, an Indianapolis-based tech support company with an office in Greenfield.
Investigators are able to monitor the account that made the transaction, but with no names attached, there isn’t a way to identify a user until they cash out their bitcoin through an online exchange service, Woker said.
Even then, clever hackers create phony email accounts and mask their IP addresses to shake law enforcement off their trail after the transaction is complete, he said.
“Once that (bitcoin) changes hands, that’s sort of the end of the story,” Woker said.
Google will help investigators hunt down the hacker’s IP address, but cyber criminals easily evade detection, he added.
“They can make their computer look like it’s coming from a different country, so it gives law enforcement the run-around trying to trace the source,” he said.
Woker frequently hears from clients who have suffered a ransomware attack. In the past, Wowlinx specialists have been able to decrypt the ransomware on occasion without paying the ransom, but he advises people and businesses to invest in antivirus software and cybersecurity insurance to avoid falling victim.
Woker also suggests creating an image-based backup of a server’s files as a last line of defense when a main server gets infected.
“We hate when somebody calls and says they have one of those, because it just takes down the business completely,” Woker said. “Anybody that gets it feels pretty much completely stuck, but they do have options.”