Former UK Cyber Intelligence Official Pushes for Law Change to Stop Bitcoin Ransomware Payments

A former U.K. cybersecurity chief has raised concerns that ransomware incidents are close to “getting out of control.” Ciaran Martin has also called for laws to prevent people from paying bitcoin to cybercriminals.

Former Official Claims Most of the Cybercriminals Are Based in Russia

During an interview with The Guardian, Martin, who was the head of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), pointed out that insurance firms are indirectly funding organized crimes in ransomware incidents.

Martin believes that companies’ insurance claims from ransomware attacks help perpetuate the criminal circle. Moreover, the former cybersecurity official states that the national health systems could be hit during the pandemic by such attacks:

I see this as so avoidable. At the moment, companies have incentives to pay ransoms to make sure this all goes away … You have to look seriously about changing the law on insurance and banning these payments, or at the very least, having a major consultation with the industry.

The former NCSC official says the problem lies in the lack of legal barriers that stop companies from paying ransoms.

The Guardian quotes him as saying that most of the threat actors come from Russia and some other former Soviet states. “People are paying bitcoin to criminals and claiming back cash,” Martin added.

Ransom Payments to Cyber Gangs Are Not Banned Under British Laws

Although British laws strictly prohibit payments of ransoms to terrorists, the rule doesn’t cover cybercriminals. The report gives the following explanation:

Britain’s extortion laws prohibit the payment of ransoms to terrorists, and were drawn up largely in response to the threat of kidnapping. But cyber-attacks are not carried out by terror groups, and so there is no bar to paying ransom demands – and it is possible to make an insurance claim if no personal data was involved.

Per a report shared with news.Bitcoin.com, malware lab Emsisoft said that 2020 was another “banner year for cybercriminals” during ransomware incidents in the United States.

Also, a study by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis found that cryptocurrency-related crime has fallen significantly. The criminal share of all crypto activity fell to just 0.34% in 2020.

What do you think about the former intelligence official’s concerns? Let us know in the comments section below.