hackers demand ransom in bitcoin: a guest post by nina bandelj, fred wherry, and viviana zelizer

Money Month guest blogging continues with UC Irvine’s Nina Bandelj, Yale’s Fred Wherry and Princeton’s Viviana Zelizer

Imagine getting this message at a hospital or a bank. ““Oops, your files have been encrypted!” and [we] demand $300 in Bitcoin.” That is exactly what just happened to the National Health Service in Britain. (Last February, it happened to a hospital in Los Angeles as well.)

Not only has money multiplied, but so too its surprising effects. Chapters by Nigel Dodd and Bill Maurer in Money Talks, respectively, help us sort through the surprising social life of alternative currencies and new payment systems.

We reached out to Bill Maurer about the ongoing ransom demands, and he had this to say.

Bill Maurer:  “Well, they certainly picked a good time for this ransomware attack. Bitcoin is currently trading at over $1800–the highest it’s ever been, and it’s just been going higher. I can’t help but think that this was part of the underlying motivation to launch these attacks now. Why has there been such a rush to bitcoin? It’s complicated. Different versions of the underlying database behind bitcoin–a distributed ledger or blockchain–are being used by a number of startups as well as large financial consortia to power new infrastructure for everything from title registry to securities clearance. This is part of the general trend of increasing diversification in payment technologies. But in order for these specific blockchain systems to work, they need their own cryptographic token. This in turn has expanded the market for all cryptocurrencies, including the most well known, bitcoin. In addition, the “hard fork” in the bitcoin blockchain that some feared–don’t ask!–never came to pass, bolstering confidence in bitcoin. Politics plays a role, too—and not just regulatory decisions, like Japan’s recent decision to allow payment in bitcoin–but political instability (Trump here, Brexit there, and an uncertain future for the EU) stoking goldbug-like skepticism of the future value of fiat currencies. Zelizer was right: money multiplies!”

Check out also Bill Maurer’s new book (with Lana Swartz), Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff (MIT Press 2017).

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 


Written by fabiorojas

May 18, 2017 at 3:48 am

2 Responses

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  1. More on Blockchains if you’re interested:
    Unpacking Blockchains –



    May 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

  2. […] Hackers want bitcoin. […]


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