Speaking exclusively to SCMagazineUK.com on Tuesday afternoon, company chief executive Marcin Kleczynski revealed customers will be able to buy the software in Bitcoins – in addition to credit cards and cheques – by entering their email address and paying via Coinbase, which takes one percent from each transaction – cheaper than most credit card companies. The user is then sent a confirmation email with the product key.
Kleczynski said that the solution is “actually more secure” than credit cards as it doesn't ask for an address and personal information, and added that it takes 0.03 Bitcoins as soon as it deems the user to have the relevant funds in their account.
For all this, the Malwarebytes CEO – who formed the company aged 14 some ten years ago – admitted that the move is a risk which could well attract derision as being a gimmick in the wider information security community.
“There are tons of little reasons [for accepting Bitcoins]”, Kleczynski told SCMagazineUK.com. “It's a trade-off but we're testing the waters. There are definitely threats but we don't think that they are insurmountable.”
“It's not really a gimmick – it's another avenue to make currency”, he added pointing to online retailer TigerDirect taking approximately £305,000 (US$ 500,000) in Bitcoin payments in just three days.
Kleczynski, who only came to this decision after buying Bitcoins of his own earlier this year, is similarly unconcerned about the virtual currency's fluctuating exchange rate (“there has been some stability") and maintains that the company won't simply be trading in their Bitcoins for US dollars.
Instead, he suggests that, as one example, Bitcoin payments will go to buy office equipment from TigerDirect, one of the earliest retail adopters of the virtual currency. “That's supporting the currency,” he said.
“Each week and month that goes by, new technology comes out making Bitcoin easier to use,” he added, noting greater ATM support and the growing availability of offline wallets.
The announcement, though not the first as far as big ecommerce outfits backing the open-source currency – which was created in 2008 – has attracted a buzz in the industry, although some believe that the amount of income from Bitcoin payments will be relatively low. Kleczynski himself admits that growth will be slow and is hoping for “hundreds” of payments after the launch.
“Lets put it this way, I imagine that they were influenced more by appearing "cool" and "down with the kids" rather than because they genuinely believed a significant proportion of their income would come through Bitcoin purchases,” veteran security researcher Graham Cluley told SCMagazineUK.com.
“That's not to say that they're wrong to offer bitcoin payment for their product”. Cluley added that a more common alternative would be PayPal.
Kenny MacDermid, ASERT research analyst at Arbor Networks, added that businesses embracing Bitcoins are likely to benefit from free advertising/press coverage and no charge backs, but worries about security and that fluctuating exchange rate.
“I think it's great that companies are starting to accept Bitcoins, provided they treat it like any other currency," he told SCMagazineUK.com.
“There are two major risks, the first being security of the coins once they are received, and the second being currency exchange risks. Both can be mitigated by using a third party Bitcoin processor like bitpay.com,” he added (Bitpay.com is a rival to Coinbase.com). “These companies allow you to set prices in your own currency and receive your own currency, but allow users to pay with Bitcoin. Of course you then have to trust the payment processor.
“For companies opting to accept Bitcoin directly, they must understand they'll be a big target. They should generally keep very little Bitcoin in a hot wallet (accessible from the internet). Treat it the same as they would the float in a cash register of an open 24-hour gas station in a bad neighbourhood.”