As Bitcoin is on its way to reach new all-time highs, the crypto industry is once again drawing in investors hoping to profit from the massive gains posted by digital currencies. The growing momentum for cryptocurrencies is also being accompanied by a rise in ransomware attacks that see attackers demanding BTC and other cryptos in exchange for the victim’s own data.
Ransomware attacks aren’t something new, but over the past weeks, there have seen a spree of attacks, all demanding Bitcoin.
The most recent attacks were on U.S.-based corporate travel firm CWT, and Garmin, the popular American tech company. Both of these institutions were demand to pay $10 million in cryptocurrencies.
Garmin pays Ransom
Garmin’s internal network was taken down by the attackers along with its services on July 23.
A report from Lawrence Abrams at Bleeping Computer states that the WastedLocker ransomware attack disabled the company’s customer support, navigation solutions, and other online services.
Per the report, the malware that infected the system had “no known weaknesses in their encryption algorithm,” and Garmin supposedly paid the ransom to receive a decryptor that was used to regain access to the system.
The report adds, “Garmin’s script contains a timestamp of ’07/25/2020′, which indicates that the ransom was paid either on July 24 or July 25.”
On the other hand, CWT was reportedly infected by the Ragnar Locker ransomware, that disabled access to sensitive files on 30,000 computers while some data were also stolen.
CWT was initially asked to pay $10 million, but a CWT representative supposedly negotiated with the hackers in a publicly accessible online chat group, and even offered recommendations to the company on how they could improve security measures, as a “bonus”.
According to a Reuters report, CWT paid 414 Bitcoins, approximately valued at $4.5 million at the time, to the attackers on July 27.
Criminal activity on the rise
As the Daily Chain reported, the Texas school district attack saw the Athens ISD board of trustees paying a ransom of $50,000 in cryptocurrencies after a ransomware encrypted all of the data stored on district servers, including “a few hundred” computers and multiple data backups.
On June 30, The University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine had to pay a $1.14 million (116.4 Bitcoin) in ransom after a similar attack.
Over the past years, the number of ransomware attacks has gone up considerably. According to blockchain and crypto analysis firm Chainalysis, the average amount sent to ransomware addresses increased more than tenfold between 2015 and 2019.
The growing demand for cryptocurrencies amongst criminals continues to grow because of the encrypted nature of the transactions, even though several criminals have been successfully tracked when they’ve tried to liquidate the funds.
With the right set of tools, Law enforcement can track down bad actors by analyzing their end-to-end transactions across currencies and crypto exchanges.
Another motivation for cybercriminals to be inclined towards cryptocurrencies could be the appreciating value of most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Even in the above scenario, the 414 BTC paid by CWT is already worth more than $4.6 million today.