Imagine coming into the office one day to find all of your business data completely unreadable or unusable, and in order to get it back, someone is politely asking for payment of one or two bitcoins.
Your first thought may be “wow, these cyber-thugs are very nice.” Your second might likely be, “what on earth is a Bitcoin?” Bitcoin is an anonymous online currency; it’s like cash on the internet. Although Bitcoin was created in 2009 – and gained momentum among small groups of investors, Internet activists, and computer science geeks – Bitcoin has become somewhat of a household name over the last year thanks to criminals.
Their game is cyber extortion and Bitcoin is their currency of choice. Or you can call it “ransom.” Here’s how the scheme works: Criminal organizations, demonstrating their technical skills and business prowess, created a new type of malicious software which encrypts any files it can access and then demands a ransom be paid in order to unencrypt them. For unfortunate businesses who don’t have a rock-solid backup and disaster recovery solutions, these Crypto-type malware infections can be crippling.
And that’s why this Bitcoin scheme is so devious. Since bitcoins are traded like a commodity, their value fluctuates daily; however the typical ransom is between $300 and $500. At that cost – if your business doesn’t have a great backup – paying the ransom is, unfortunately, often the best choice. No matter how distasteful it is to cough up $500 to get your business operational again, it’s going to cost much more to combat them (and you’ll probably lose because the time period in which they demand agreement to pay is only hours). Be aware that if you do decide to pay, obtaining bitcoins isn’t as simple as you might think … and this is where companies might absorb more significant costs.