After paying a ransom in Bitcoin (BTC) to recover access to data that was encrypted by ransomware, a Dutch institution was able to reclaim the cryptocurrency and generate a substantial profit.
According to a report by the Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant, the event happened in 2019, and as a consequence, academics, staff, and students at Maastricht University were unable to access vital personal data, including academic work.
Cybercriminals demanded a Bitcoin ransom payment of €200,000 (about $208,000) in order for the institution to regain access to the data. The Dutch police were able to find the bank account of a Ukrainian money launderer into which €40,000 of the ransom had been sent after a comprehensive investigation.
Approximately two years later, they were successful in repaying the institution’s portion of the ransom. Since then, the value of the Bitcoin saved in the account increased from €40,000 to €500,000, which was more than twelve times the initial ransom payment made by the institution. Initially, the University chose to pay the ransom since it was possible that the material might be lost.
“The hackers encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems, prohibiting 25,000 students and staff from accessing scientific material, the library, and their email,” said De Volkskrant.
Authorities confiscated the account and learned that it included other cryptocurrencies. This might hinder some students from taking exams and finishing schoolwork.
The ransom may have cost millions of dollars
In the case that the whole ransom was paid, the new value would have been €2.5 million, assuming the price of one Bitcoin did not change during that time.
The additional €300,000, according to Michiel Borgers, director of information and communication technology at Maastricht University, would be allocated to a fund that aids students who are having problems fulfilling their financial responsibilities. The police are continuing their investigation into the situation with the aim of identifying the criminal.
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