University Pays $20,000 in Bitcoin to Hackers

Journalist:
Rebecca Campbell
June 9, 2016

A Canadian university has paid bitcoin to malicious hackers to restore its computer systems after it became the subject of a cyberattack that denied access to its data.

The University of Calgary paid a ransom amounting to $20,000 Canadian dollars worth of bitcoins in order to obtain the keys or methods of decryption to restore its data.

Linda Dalgetty, the school’s vice-president of finances and services, said in a message released on the UT website that the cyberattack, which crippled multiple systems on May 28, used ransomware, which locks or encrypts computer networks until a ransom is paid.

This attack is part of a disturbing global trend of highly sophisticated and malicious malware attacks against organizations including NASA, law enforcement agencies, and large health-care institutions.

As part of efforts to maintain all options to address these systems issues, the university has paid a ransom totalling about $20,000 CDN that was demanded as part of this “ransomware” attack.

The news comes a week after security researchers found that prevalence of the malicious malware is increasing with no signs of stopping anytime soon. According to experts studying the malware, there are now over 120 separate families of ransomware, many of which are often updated making it difficult for experts to find a solution.

Since the cyberattack last month, the University of Calgary has had over 100 computers affected.

Cyberattacks

This isn’t the first time an organization has become the target of a cyberattack with the university now joining a list of high-profile cases in recent months.

In February, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (HPMC) paid $17,000 in bitcoins to hackers who used malware to encrypt and hold its files for ransom. At the end of the month, hackers ordered the Melrose Police Department in Massachusetts to pay $450 in bitcoins after it became the latest victim in a similar cyberattack.

Soft Target

Many will wonder, however, whether paying the hackers is a good idea or if it will simply encourage others to set up schemes to make some money and targeting those by threatening to publish public information if they refuse to pay.

The University of Calgary has stated that “there is no indication that any personal or other university data was released to the public.”

Image from Flickr. Image courtesy of Christiaan Colen

Rebecca Campbell