Police return 40,000 euros worth of bitcoins paid to hackers to university

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Maastricht University has returned bitcoins given to unknown attackers in 2019 for unlocking data.

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Hackers used ransomware to block teachers and 25,000 students from accessing personal data, academic papers and the library. This prevented students from taking tests and completing assignments. To restore access to data, cybercriminals demanded a ransom in bitcoins in the amount of 200,000 euros (about $208,000). The university was only able to pay 40,000 euros.

During the investigation, the Dutch police were able to find the attacker’s account in Ukraine, to which the money was transferred. Since then, the value of the bitcoins held in the account has risen from 40,000 euros to 500,000 euros, which is 12.5 times the ransom amount. If the school paid the ransom in full, the value of bitcoins would now be around 2.5 million euros.

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The attacker’s account was confiscated by law enforcement agencies, which returned the funds paid to the extortionist to the educational institution. Police continue to investigate to find other people involved in the crime. Michiel Borgers, director of information and communication technology at Maastricht University, said that 300,000 euros will be directed to a university fund set up for students who have difficulty meeting financial obligations.

Chainalysis estimates that scammers made about $602 million using ransomware in 2021. Last year, a bill was introduced in the US Congress that would require companies to report payments to ransomware hackers.

Source: Bits

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