For years we wondered. What use would humanity find for cryptocurrency? Now we know. It is not necessarily a force for good.
There have been other technologies which emerged before there were practical applications.
When the first laser was built in 1960 it was impressive. Scientists thought it may one day find use in spectrometry or even nuclear fusion.
Others thought it could be used as a ‘death ray’ military weapon. it didn’t help that the Pentagon funded early research into laser applications.
In time engineers found thousands of applications. Today it powers fibre communications networks. They are used to measure distances with incredible accuracy. Application include medicine, office printers and cutting objects for manufacturers.
The killer app
When the first PC arrived, it looked like it had potential. It could do lots of things, but it did one thing very well: spreadsheets. VisiCalc, an early spreadsheet was the first computer ‘killer app’.
Likewise, the graphically gifted Macintosh computer had its power unleashed by PageMaker. It was a desktop publishing program and another killer app.
In May criminals attacked Waikato DHB demanding a ransom in return for unlocking computers.
It wasn’t the only ransomware attack that month, nor was it the biggest or most disruptive. Ireland’s health computer system was also shut down. The pipeline moving oil to the US East Coast was shut down.
All of these ransomware attacks, and most other online crimes, have a common denominator. The criminals want ransoms paid in cryptocurrency. That’s because Bitcoin and the other cryptos are harder to trace than conventional forms of money.
Ransomware and cryptocurrency
Ransomware is crypto’s killer app.
Cryptocurrency remains a shadowy world. It is not that everyone involved in cryptocurrency is a criminal. It’s more a case of every online criminal uses crypto.
For many everyday folk, their first interaction with cryptocurrency is when they need to buy it to pay a ransom.
This is not an argument to ban cryptocurrencies. Although it could be. And the stories about the vast amounts of energy needed to ‘mine’ these new currencies are also a concern.
Part of the attraction of crypto is that it remains unregulated. That has to stop. The exchanges that deal with cryptocurrency have to face the same accountabilities as other financial institutions. It has to be made harder to move unaccounted funds from crypto into traditional banks.
There is more to stifling ransomware than regulating Bitcoin and its peers. Yet the ransomware epidemic now threatens online commerce. In cases like attacks on hospitals, it is potentially a literal ‘killer app’. Regulating cryptocurrency will save lives and jobs.