US Travel Giant Paid 414 Bitcoins in Ransom to Hackers

The hackers initially demanded $10 million, but ended up settling for $4.5 million.

CWT, a US-based travel management company, paid a ransom of $4.5 million to hackers last week, following the theft of sensitive corporate information.

As reported by Reuters, hackers breached the security of more than 30,000 computers of the company. They claimed to have stolen two terabytes of data, including financial reports, security documents, and even employees’ personal information.

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Initially, hackers demanded $10 million in ransom. However, after negotiation, the final settlement was reduced to $4.5 million. The travel company then transferred 414 Bitcoins, which was equivalent to that amount, to the hackers’ wallet.

The hackers also pointed out that this was much cheaper than the cost of potential lawsuits and also the damage to their reputation if the compromised information was leaked. CWT drove the initial figure down by citing the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s business. 

Last year, the company reported $1.5 billion in revenue and highlighted that its clients include a third of all companies on the S&P 500 US stock index.

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“We can confirm that after temporarily shutting down our systems as a precautionary measure, our systems are back online and the incident has now ceased,” CWT said in a statement.

“While the investigation is at an early stage, we have no indication that personally identifiable information/customer and traveler information has been compromised.”

The company, however, did not publicize any details of the investigation.

The Meteoric Rise in Crypto Ransoms

Crypto-related ransomware attacks have skyrocketed in the last few years. This coincides with many major companies being targeted, where millions have been extorted.

Last month, the security of Garmin, a major fitness accessory maker, was also breached. Its several internal networks were encrypted and services were taken down. Though not officially confirmed, the company reportedly paid $10 million in ransom to the attackers to return control of its services.

Most recently, Kaspersky Lab also warned against the activities of Lazarus, a notorious hacking group allegedly operating from North Korea, who attack operating systems including Linux, macOS, and Windows.

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