An Australian business paid a $AUS 4,000 (£2,600) ransom to a hacker who hijacked 12 years’ worth of its data, the Warwick Daily News reported today.
The hacker, "thought to be based in China", infected the unnamed business’s IT infrastructure with a virus that rendered all of its data inaccessible and demanded a $AUS 4,000 ransom to release it.
The Daily News reports that the business was "fobbed off" by local police, so it decided to pay the ransom.
"We don’t feel good helping an immoral crook, but when we recovered no support from the police we felt we had to go it alone," the owner told the paper. "It was against their advice to pay and obviously we don’t relish it, but we made a financial decision in the interests of our business."
The business transferred the money through a series of international tranasctions, and the hacker provided decryption codes and passwords. They also offered to make the business’s IT system "unhackable" for $AUS 10,000, but the business declined.
According to security firm Symantec, ransomware – malware that encrypts data or freezes computers and demands a ransom payment – is "a growing menace". The first examples of ransomware were discovered in 2009, it said in a recent whitepaper, but it has since become widespread. One ‘family’ of ransomware was found to have infected over 68,000 PCs and is believed to have earned its operators $680,000 per month.
Symantec’s advice to victims of ransomware is "DO NOT PAY THE RANSOM". It suggests taking steps to remove the infection.
In May, a group of hackers demanded that Belgian bank Dexia pay a €150,000 ransom on threat of publishing stolen customer data online. The hackers described the ranson as an "idiot tax" for storing the data on an unprotected server .