A cyber-security survey by remote access developer Citrix has found an interesting use case for holding bitcoin – being prepared to pay a ransom to hackers holding your files captive. The poll asked 250 British IT and cyber-security specialists representing companies of various sizes about their preparedness for cyber-crime and found that 33% said they were buying bitcoin in order to be able to pay off future ransomware attackers.
If you are luckily unfamiliar with ransomware, it usually works as follows: you open your computer and see that all your files are encrypted – effectively leaving you without all your information. You are than notified that you have been hacked and are prompted to send an amount of bitcoin to a certain address before a timer runs out, in order to undo the damage. In some cases people reported they were even guided in the process by the hackers’ call-center, providing support in finding a nearby Bitcoin exchange and explanations about initiating transfers.
According to the survey, the storing of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is being done by 36% of the smaller businesses who participated (those with 250-500 employees) and 57% of medium firms (those with 501-1000 employees). Only 18% of the larger firms (those with more than 2,000 employees) said they keep a similar ransomware stash, however they did say they are willing to pay up to £50,000 in order to unlock their files if they contain important intellectual property or business critical data.
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This poll’s results raise a few interesting questions such as: why not just open an account with an exchange, which would not cost anything until (or if) the money is really needed; why not invest the funds in improving security or just get an insurance plan against hackers instead of paying ransoms and encouraging future attacks; and, isn’t holding bitcoin just giving hackers another target to aim for if they have already gained access to your systems?