While they are not common, cyber attacks have had crippling effects on various companies around the world.
Financial institutions, corporations and government departments have all be targeted over the years. Recently, attackers began using ransomware which encrypts users’ computers until the victim pays a ransom to unlock their systems. Hackers usually demand payment in Bitcoin, because of its pseudo-anonymous nature.
A piece of ransomware called Wannacry was probably the most damaging ransomware used this year. Wannacry targeted a number of government operations and companies around the world. Some have even theorized that Wannacry was intended to discredit Bitcoin, by associating the currency with criminal acts. The biggest target was the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, which was hit by multiple ransomware hacks earlier this year.
With cybercriminals brazen enough to attack governmental institutions, it is unsurprising to hear that big companies are preparing themselves for future attacks. American corporations have been purchasing Bitcoin for a while, so they can quickly pay if they get hit by a ransomware attack.
You could call it insurance. As reported on RT, KPMG’s head of cybersecurity, Paul Taylor, says some companies are planning for the worst by purchasing Bitcoin:
“Companies are definitely stockpiling Bitcoin in order to be prepared to pay ransoms.”
While the move is understandable given the havok a cyber attack can have, McAfee chief scientist Raj Samani believes it is a catch 22 situation:
“It’s not something that organizations have publicly confirmed, because it says, ‘We are willing to pay criminals in the event we are hit by ransomware. However, it is certainly a practice we are aware [of].”
Value of Bitcoin a factor
It's not hard to understand why hackers are eager to receive ransom payments in Bitcoin. Not only is the currency pseudo-anonymous, but it has enjoyed a massive bull run this year. Spurred on by the launch of Bitcoin futures on Chicago-based exchanges CBOE and CME, the price of Bitcoin hit a high of $20,000 this week.
Companies like Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica paid over $600,000 to unlock files encrypted by ransomware in May.