UK companies hoarding Bitcoin to prepare for ransomware attacks

Some firms are asking their employees to prepare digital wallets and monitor cryptocurrency prices, according to Paul Taylor, former Ministry of Defence cyber chief.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • UK firms are stockpiling Bitcoin to prepare for potential ransomware attacks. -The Telegraph, 2017
  • Bitcoin is now valued above $18,000, and companies may be tempted to cash it in instead of saving it. -The Telegraph, 2017

British companies are hoarding Bitcoin to pay off hackers and unlock critical systems in the event of a ransomware attack like WannaCry, according to The Telegraph.

"Companies are definitely stockpiling Bitcoin in order to be prepared to pay ransoms," Paul Taylor, former Ministry of Defense cyber chief and KPMG partner, told The Telegraph.

A ransomware attack occurs once every 40 seconds, as noted by TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. The number of people who reported encounters with ransomware worldwide in the past year rose from 2.3 million to nearly 2.6 million, according to Kaspersky Lab.

These attacks are now so common that employees are being ordered to prepare digital wallets and monitor cryptocurrency prices to avoid inflation, should the company need to keep an attack from gaining public attention, Taylor told The Telegraph.

SEE: End user data backup policy (Tech Pro Research)

Two thirds of companies that have fallen victim to such an attack have paid the attackers, according to a Trend Micro report. However, paying up is no guarantee of unlocking your files: Of those companies, one in five never got their data back after paying, the report found.

Large British businesses are prepared to pay out an average of £136,235 (about $182,693) to regain access to important intellectual property or business critical data, according to a June report from Citrix. These businesses are also stockpiling an average of 23 Bitcoins in case they are suddenly hit by an attack, the report noted.

The recent boom in Bitcoin value—currently worth more than $18,000—may tempt businesses to cash in on their stockpile, Chris Mayers, chief security architect at Citrix, told The Telegraph, making them unable to pay the ransom. However, keeping a large stockpile may also make them a more desirable target for hackers.

Security experts warn companies not to pay the ransom, as attackers may repeatedly hit the same company, and instead to report the attack. But many companies find that it's easier to pay out and keep attacks private, The Telegraph noted.

Companies that want to avoid ransomware attacks should ensure they are backing up their data to a secure location daily. To learn more about how to prevent ransomware attacks, click here.

Image: iStockphoto/Denes Farkas

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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