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If there's one thing the Internet is good at, it's keeping track money and knowing where it has moved.

Ransomware attacks typically request payment for a decryption key. How is it with such an easily tracked transaction that authors of ransomware aren't prosecuted more often?

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    In addition to the answers below, remember that in some places in the world it's very easy to get a "legitimate" ID/passport with any name you want. You then use that ID to receive Western Union transfers, or even open a bank account with your IBAN linked to this ghost person. Last time I checked, fake European passports are going around 1500 euros each. For a potential revenue of tens of thousands of euros, spending 1.5k for a fake passport isn't a big deal. That's what online drug sellers use. – Adi Aug 14 '15 at 11:40
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    Comments are not for conversation. If you want to, please continue in chat. – Rory Alsop Aug 15 '15 at 20:31
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They use alternative methods from traditional credit card/wire transactions, namely prepaid cards and crypto-currency like bitcoin. This is because it's much easier to stay hidden this way.

This article outlines more information if you're interested: TeslaCrypt: Following the Money Trail and Learning the Human Costs of Ransomware

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The nefarious attackers do not leave a trail because they ask for payment using these methods:

  1. Bitcoin: you can pay without without needing an intermediary - banks. Even if it is true that Bitcoin payments can be traced via the transaction chain that remains stamped on the currency thanks to the block chain, which includes IP address information (not reliable since Bitcoin relies on the Tor network), there are methods for cleaning Bitcoins to make them anonymous. Note that systems quivalent to Bitcoin exist and can be used for the same purpose.

  2. Prepaid Gift Cards (Starbucks, Best Buy, Target, Macy’s ... and even Amazon): you can buy them in person with cash.

  3. Prepaid Credit cards which can make many purchases online as they are just as valid as a credit card (Visa, MasterCard ...)

Note that CryptoWall (ransomware) used for example as payment tool MoneyPak.

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