Bitcoin has always been the most high-profile cryptocurrency out there, but in recent months its recognition has exploded to the point where your granddad who doesn't have the internet and only reads the local paper will have heard of it. The problem is that the reasons why Bitcoin is so recognisable are also causing cyber criminals to adopt competing cryptocurrencies.
Since its inception Bitcoin has had a bit of a surly reputation thanks to its use by cybercriminals. The anonymity factor was part of it, and meant criminals could be paid for work with less risk than conventional currency. But the volatility of Bitcoin's value is causing more than a few headaches.
Despite the drop in value just before Chrismas, Bitcoin still seems to be popular amongst investors hoping to make some cash. The problem is that the value is changing all the time, and cybercrooks are having to alter the price of their services on a daily, or sometimes hourly, basis. What's more, the value of Bitcoin has been referred to as a bubble by some economic analysts and a sudden crash could cause criminals to lose everything they have.
Bitcoin also doesn't offer full anonymity, something that will only get worse should the government and EU get their way. So they're cashing in their Bitcoin and swapping it for the likes of Monero, Ethereum, and Zcash. Monero is particularly notable because of its extra security and privacy features, which is why it's gaining traction amongst cybercriminals.
The problem is that this actually makes tracking cyber criminals a lot harder, something that Europol is concerned about.
We’ll see a progressive shift in 2018 towards criminal use of cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin, making it generally more challenging for law enforcement to counter https://t.co/CAzr4spnK4
— Rob Wainwright (@rwainwright67) January 2, 2018
The agency's 2017 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment report notes that Bitcoin is still "a key enabler for criminal conduct on the internet" it warns that use of competing cryptocurrencies is on the rise - particularly Monero and Zcash that "appear to have more to offer criminals wishing to operate with greater anonymity".
What this might mean for the overall value of Bitcoin isn't clear, but as long as investors think they can make money buying and selling it it's probably going to stay reasonably high. You can probably expect other cryptocurrencies to follow suit, especially since Ethereum's ether tokens are now over worth around $900 each. That's a long way off Bitcoin's peak $19,706-per-coin value, but it's on the rise. [ZDnet]