Small Canadian Town Gives in to Ransomware Hackers, Sends Bitcoin
Ransomware is a malicious form of software that makes a device unusable until the victim pays the hacker a pre-defined ransom. In most cases, those inflicted with such threats find alternative methods to remove the ransomware, rather than give in to the demands of the bad actors. However, in a rare move, a small Canadian town has instead decided to pay the hackers with their currency of choice: Bitcoin.
Located in the Ontario Province, Midland has a population of just 16,000 people. With the initial attack commencing in early September, Midland’s computer systems were rendered unusable for just under two days, affecting a wide variety of everyday services. This included the issuance of permits, emails, payment processing and even marriage applications. Fortunately, front-line services such as fire response and waste collection remained uninterrupted.
Nevertheless, upon receiving advice from cyber security professionals, the town has decided to give in to the hackers’ demands. According to an official press release from the Midland Town council, local officials are in the process of paying the Bitcoin ransom “in exchange for the decryption keys”. Moreover, the council added that the funds were being covered by an internal insurance policy.
The amount of Bitcoin being demanded has not yet been made public.
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Not the First Time, and Certainly Not the Last
The act of infecting a device and subsequently demanding money is certainly not new; however, the trend seems to be on the rise. In fact, according to a recent report by New York University, it is estimated that cyber criminals have successfully extorted $25 million from ransomware victims over the past two years—most of which has been settled in cryptocurrency payments.
This includes an unknown hacking group that created the SamSam Ransomware in 2015, enabling them to generate an estimated $6 million, with the largest individual ransom paid standing at $64,000.
However, it is important to note that not everybody decides to give in to the hackers, with many instead refusing to pay. Just last month it was reported that the Professional Golfers Association of America refused to pay a similar Bitcoin ransomware demand that had infected its internal systems.
The attack caused grave disruption, which consequently prevented the association from being able to access crucial documents pertaining to PGA Championship golf tournaments. Unlike the Town of Midland, the ransom demands were ignored.
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