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A recent survey by corporate networking firm Citrix has revealed that companies are ‘stockpiling’ bitcoin to use the cryptocurrency as ransom payment if faced with a ransomware attack.
Over the years, cybercriminals have conducted phishing campaigns, hacking endeavors and DDoS attacks as effective means to engage in cybercrime. In recent times, the emergence of ransomware malware has targeted everyday individuals and large companies alike. The malware typically uses cryptography to encrypt a target’s files on the hard drive, demanding a ransom payment – typically in bitcoin – in exchange for the decryption key.
Ransomware can disrupt operations across multiple industries and sectors in substantial ways. Critical institutions such as hospitals have also come under attack, leaving the administration no choice but to pay up the ransom demand to ensure that patient care isn’t affected.
One report that studied the particularly troublesome Cryptowall strain of ransomware over 2015 estimated that the authors and cybercriminals behind the malware had raked in $325 million, in the year alone. Hundreds of thousands of victims around the world were affected and made the ransom payment to recover their files. Another suggested that ransomware enabled by cryptocurrency could fuel the “largest crime wave in modern history.”
Now, a recently commissioned survey by networking firm Citrix in the UK polled 250 IT and security specialists in companies housing 250 employees or more, across the region.
The survey revealed over a third of polled UK companies admitting to gathering a stockpile of bitcoin, just to pay up in the case of a ransomware attack.
Notably, large firms that employed 2,000 individuals or more were willing to pay over £50,000 ($72,450) in ransom to regain access to their files, likely to include business-critical data or intellectual property.
The survey also revealed that smaller companies are far more likely to keep a ready supply of bitcoin, than larger businesses.
Some of the other numbers thrown up in the survey are as below:
- 36% of businesses with 250-500 employees store cryptocurrencies.
- 57% of businesses with 501-1000 employees also have a stockpile.
- 18% of large businesses with over 2,000 employees amass bitcoin.
Earlier this month, a professor at Cornell University stated that the university’s treasurer had created a Coinbase account to be prepared for ransomware attacks.
At Cornell, it was difficult to buy/own crypto for research. When ransomware came out, the treasurer created coinbase acct to be ready.
— Emin Gün Sirer (@el33th4xor) June 2, 2016
The Real Problem
The survey also put the spotlight on significant shortcomings from the polled companies, when it comes to cybersecurity.
48% or nearly half of the companies surveyed are failing to back up their data at least once a day. Cybersecurity experts are near unanimous in suggesting that automated backups are the best line of defense against ransomware attacks.
The numbers that are shown above do not make for good reading as the very notion of stockpiling bitcoin is a submission that companies are willing to pay, a fact that is likely to foster further ransomware attacks from cybercriminals.
Featured image from Shutterstock.