What we currently know about the global cyberattack

However there is an element of privacy involved in the digital currency as well as it being impossible to counterfeit, immune to fraudulent chargebacks and transactions being irreversible.

The big question is whether bitcoin is truly a self-stabilising currency, with all the evidence so far pointing to no, with it having already shown massive fluctuations in price.

Bitcoin was set up in 2008 by someone - or some group - calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto, and was the first digital currency to successfully use cryptography to keep transactions secure and hidden, making traditional financial regulation hard if not impossible.

At the moment, Elliptic is working on trying to trace the payments, but Smith said this would become clearer when the hackers try to withdraw their bitcoin in fiat currency. Or they can use it to make online transactions and purchases.

Bitcoin is not tied to a bank or government and allows users to spend money anonymously. The coins also can be bought and sold on exchanges with USA dollars and other currencies.

How Much Is It Worth? That makes it more valuable than an ounce of gold, which trades at less than $1,230.

Bitcoin has been an unbelievable invention, creating reliable value-in-exchange from bits and bytes. A year ago, one was worth $457.04, which means that it's almost quadrupled in the last 12 months. A bitcoin's value plunged by 23 percent against the dollar in just a week this past January.

"At the end of the day, backups are not going to stop ransomware from doing its thing", said Don Foster, senior director of product management at data protection software vendor Commvault, based in Tinton Falls, N.J.

The digital payment system is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary and can be made anonymously.

Yes, to a point. Given the nearly destruction of the old Swiss confidential and numbered accounts it should be fairly easy to find the owners of these bank accounts, the perpetrators of these cyber crimes. There are ways to convert bitcoins into cash on the sly through third parties. Europol, White House, police agencies and cybersecurity experts have all strongly recommended users to not pay the ransom amount.

Each account has a unique identifier that is available to all as is the number of bitcoins in any account.

Some businesses have jumped on the bitcoin bandwagon amid a flurry of media coverage. Overstock.com accepts payments in bitcoin, for example. The buyer is taking a risk, however, since bitcoins can be tracked through transactions, and they are now taking some of the heat on themselves.

"I believe that this was spread for the goal of causing as much damage as possible", said Matthew Hickey, a co-founder of British cyber consulting firm Hacker House, told Reuters.

The bitcoin network works by harnessing individuals' greed for the collective good.

The transactions are anonymous but traceable, because all the transactions are stored in databases called blockchains and people can monitor bitcoin addresses and see how the "money" moves.

Participants with the computing power and time, do what is known as bitcoin mining. As long as miners keep the blockchain secure, counterfeiting shouldn't be an issue.

Using methods he says are similar to those described in the book, University of Kentucky economist Aaron Yelowitz discovered some revealing information about the thinking of people with an interest in bitcoin.

Only 21 million bitcoins exist but this is not seen as a limitation because bitcoins can be broken down into smaller sub-units of bits with 1,000,000 bits in 1 bitcoin.

  • Arturo Norris