Even the Largest Exchanges in the World can be Crippled

Hackers can cripple even the largest exchanges in the world. Just very recently, Travelex boards that usually glow with exchange rates in airports worldwide have gone dark after it was forced to go offline upon the discovery of a ransomware attack that happened on December 31, 2019. Travelex is a large London-based currency exchange company with tentacles attached to hundreds of institutions around the world. Needless to say, the said attack did not just cripple the company but also all other large institutions that they are in relationship with, such as Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, and HSBC as they were unable to fulfill foreign currency orders for their customers.

Since Travelex discovered that it has been compromised by a ransomware gang known as Sodinokibi or REvil, they have been doing over the counter services only to protect their customers’ data. They also claimed that there was no evidence that customer data had been taken because they were able to contain the threat. However, the hackers were saying otherwise. They told BBC that they have gained access to Travelex’s computer network 6 months ago and downloaded 5GB of sensitive customer data. They intend to sell it if there was no response by January 14, 2020, regarding their ransom demand worth $6 million for them to return the data. Unfortunately, the company refused to provide any further details regarding this issue and issued an online statement that they don’t have the complete picture of what happened to those data.

While this has not been resolved yet, Travelex was forced not to do online transactions as much as they could. It was still changing money, but they were doing most of their calculations manually based on rates issued by their headquarters every morning. A central London branch had its ATMs issue withdrawals in pounds only on the 9th of January 2020, and the screens that usually show the currency exchange rates were blank. These episodes raise questions as to how many more parts of the financial system could be at risk, according to a cybersecurity expert, Bob Sullivan. Clearly, REvil, the hacker group who was the root of this all, was able to cripple Travelex’s operations despite it being that large and influential. It’s all because it is a centralized exchange company.

Centralized exchange companies require their users to submit personal data that they store in their systems and use them to connect with other financial institutions that process their transactions. This is what makes them so fragile and vulnerable to hackers. In fact, these exchanges are the playgrounds of hackers who steal data and use it for their evil deeds. There is a loud cry for people to start using decentralized exchanges such as Virie Market that will never ask for any personal data. To process any exchange of currencies, goods, and services, all one has to do is download its software. All transactions are untraceable and unlinkable, keeping its anonymity and privacy intact. Using modern cryptography and a hybrid protocol of Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof of Stake (PoS), hacking is impossible. But don’t just take my word for it. Download it here and see for yourself.


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