The permissive cause of the explosion of ransomware attacks is cryptocurrency, the most prominent of which is Bitcoin. If we want to stop this menace, which could paralyze vital sectors of the nation, we must sink Bitcoin. Make it useless. Take away the cybercriminals’ means of collecting ill-gotten gains.

We already glimpsed this with the news that millions have been recovered by unstated methods. It appears Bitcoin is not as opaque and secret as advertised, something that should unnerve traders. Washington likely surveys large exchanges of cyber for-real currencies (dollars, euros, British pounds) by shadowy entities and investigates the sellers.

The criminal misuse of Bitcoin — including attacks on your computer — gives the U.S. an urgent national-security interest. Accordingly, countermeasures by Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury are warranted. Who in Congress would complain?

Federal hacking defenders could be as hidden as the original criminal hackers, but surreptitious methods may not be needed. The pump-and-dump that occurs daily on Wall Street may scare off speculators from the mania. A major player such as Elon Musk announces that Bitcoin is a good investment. Overnight, its value rises by thousands of dollars. Then announce that it’s a bad investment, and it plunges. It’s already happening: Bitcoin’s price neared $65,000 in April but sank to half that.

Is exiting a market a legal offense? Under whose jurisdiction does fake money fall? Cryptocurrencies, based on millions of “blockchain” calculations, are radically decentralized. No bank or government stands behind them. Avoiding central control is precisely why they were invented.

There is no Bitcoin Inc. that could sue. It is not a corporate entity. It’s not even an entity. Who could sue and in which court? Would those claiming harm step forward and identify themselves as cryptocurrency speculators? Have they paid taxes on their gains?

Cryptocurrency brokers now organize daily trading. They would suffer as fewer trade in fake money. Whom could they accuse over what? All markets go up and down. Would their clients want their accounts open to court scrutiny? Bitcoin’s proclaimed secrecy could now be used to diminish it.

Could the nation of Bitcoin declare war on good-guy anti-hackers? There ain’t no Bitcoin nation. No soldiers march for Bitcoin. The Russian criminal gang (REvil) that demands $70 million in cryptocurrency to unlock its recent ransoms could ask the Russian state for protection. Would the Kremlin provide it? That would be admitting they were behind it.

Turning cryptocurrencies into crypto battlefields — where unseen battles are already being fought — could wreck fake money. Who wants to risk putting assets in an unprotected, unstable, contested environment?

Some may complain that attack and counter-attack in the underworld of cryptocurrency would harm ordinary investors. But cryptocurrency speculators have long been warned not to invest more in this pretend cash than they can afford to lose. The U.S. government is not in the business of saving fools from themselves (except for banks deemed “too big to fail”).

Several good things could arise from sinking cryptocurrencies. Blockchain calculations take vast computing power. The massive electricity needed to run these computers, generated mostly by fossil fuels, contributes to global warming, a nontrivial concern these days.

By draining the cryptocurrency swamp, malefactors would have to resort to old-fashioned currency transfers such as suitcases full of $100 bills or bank wire transfers, ultimately traceable. Ransomware attacks would decline, possibly cease.

There would still be dangerous state-sponsored hacks that shut down important sectors, but they would be acts of war. Cyber retaliation would quickly escalate to kinetic warfare. Fear of escalation would induce caution on the part of state sponsors. President Biden just warned his Russian counterpart to cut it out, but smirking Putin denied everything and didn’t take the warning seriously. Make it serious, starting now.

Macroeconomically, sinking Bitcoin could redirect capital to where it belongs: invested in the homeland’s infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing, jobs and tax base. Cryptocurrency holdings parallel the offshoring of savings. They may avoid taxes, but parked in dubious Caribbean banks, such deposits do nothing for the U.S. economy. And they are not secure.

Ultimately, the cryptocurrency mania will likely collapse like the 17th-century Holland tulip mania, regarded as the first asset bubble. Our Bitcoin bubble is the result of excess liquidity pumped into the U.S. economy. Granted, economic vicissitudes necessitated massive outlays, but these led to holders of cash absurdly inflating assets (homes, baseball cards, stocks, Bitcoins). All bubbles eventually burst. The cryptocurrency mania is unlikely to be an exception.

Ransomware attacks will continue and worsen as long as the criminals get rewarded. As of now, they have no reason to stop. Hacking mafias rent out off-the-shelf intrusion techniques that criminal groups use with impunity. Stopping this is fast becoming a matter of national survival.

One major defense is to pull away the protective payment blanket of cryptocurrencies. Sink them before they sink us.