Bitcoin price cryptocurrency
Bitcoin's record-breaking day turned sour as a ransomware attack struck the NHS IBTimes UK

Just a day after reaching a new record of over $1,800 (£1,390) per coin, the bitcoin cryptocurrency plunged by $200 in the wake of its involvement with the WannaCry global ransomware attack.

With the days of online heists, its use by the Silk Road illegal drug site and the implosion of the Mt Gox currency exchange behind it, it seemed that bitcoin's Wild West reputation was coming to an end.

But being the currency of choice for a ransomware attack which struck 200,000 organisations in over 100 countries, the murky image the bitcoin community had done well to polish away in recent years was poised to return.

The New York Times stuck the knife into bitcoin as the ransomware spread, describing it as "an anonymous digital currency preferred by criminals", while the Telegraph said it is "popular among cybercriminals because it is decentralised, unregulated and practically impossible to trace."

While it is still true that bitcoin is used by dark web marketplaces which sell Class A drugs and guns, bitcoin's legal usefulness has grown significantly since the turbulent days of 2013 and 2014. Already in 2017 bitcoin has been approved as a legal method of payment in Japan, while Chinese regulators are now warming to the same idea.

But since the ransomware spread like wildfire on 13 May, paralysing the computer systems of the NHS and quickly becoming a global epidemic, it didn't take long for speculation to mount of bitcoin being used as more than just a means of payment.

CryptoCoinsNews suggested: "If the attackers are motivated by making a fast profit, they could be trying to manipulate the bitcoin price with the intention of shorting the currency...given the small size of the bitcoin market compared to other commodities, such price manipulation might be possible."

Additionally, the site suggests the global scale of the malware infection "casts bitcoin in a highly negative light...[and] it wouldn't be unreasonable for a bitcoin holder to get nervous...and deciding to sell some if not all of their bitcoin."

But to look too closely at bitcoin's ties with the ransomware attack is to miss the point, says cryptocurrency and cyber security expert Andreas Antonopoulos, who tweeted: "Ransomware attacks used the leaked NSA tools to compromise computers. News media blaming bitcoin?...Blaming bitcoin for ransomware is exactly like blaming the duffel bag full of cash for a kidnapping."