Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Connectivity

Companies Are Stockpiling Bitcoin to Pay Off Cybercriminals

The rise of malware that holds data hostage has led companies to buy Bitcoin to use as ransom in case of an attack.

Digital currency Bitcoin is variously promoted as an alternative to gold, a good way to make international transfers, or the future of e-commerce. New research suggests that companies are now stockpiling Bitcoin for a different reason: so they can pay up quickly if their data is held ransom by malicious software.

Ransomware, as it is called, has locked up the data of huge numbers of individuals and businesses in recent years. Many of them, including police departments and hospitals, have opted to pay up to get their data back.

A small survey by corporate networking company Citrix indicates that some IT professionals are even stockpiling bitcoins so they can pay up quickly in the event ransomware strikes their network. Out of 250 IT and security workers at U.K. companies with more than 250 employees, a third said they were stockpiling the currency. A researcher at Cornell recently tweeted that the university’s treasurer created an account with the Bitcoin exchange Coinbase so as to be ready if ransomware struck.

Almost half of respondents in the Citrix survey said that company data was not backed up at least daily. Security experts advise that backups are the best defense against ransomware and generally discourage paying off ransomware, since it encourages the industry.

Holding Bitcoin in reserve could help a company without backups get back online faster. Most companies have no reason to have a Bitcoin account otherwise. Having one ready to go could save precious time during which a company can’t operate as normal.

Just how many companies are setting aside ransom money in advance is probably hard to know because it’s something they may be loath to advertise. Acknowledging that you are ready to pay—and perhaps don’t have a good backup system—could attract the attacks this policy is designed to handle.

(Read more: “With Hospital Ransomware Infections, the Patients Are at Risk,” “Holding Data Hostage: the Perfect Internet Crime”)

Keep up with the latest in Bitcoin at Business of Blockchain 2019.

May 2, 2019
Cambridge, MA

Register now
More from Connectivity

What it means to be constantly connected with each other and vast sources of information.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to MIT Technology Review.
  • Print + All Access Digital {! insider.prices.print_digital !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The best of MIT Technology Review in print and online, plus unlimited access to our online archive, an ad-free web experience, discounts to MIT Technology Review events, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    6 bi-monthly issues of print + digital magazine

    10% discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    Ad-free website experience

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

    The MIT Technology Review App

  • All Access Digital {! insider.prices.digital !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    The digital magazine, plus unlimited site access, our online archive, and The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Unlimited access to all our daily online news and feature stories

    Digital magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Access to entire PDF magazine archive dating back to 1899

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

  • Print Subscription {! insider.prices.print_only !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six print issues per year plus The Download delivered to your email in-box each weekday.

    See details+

    12-month subscription

    Print magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    The Download: newsletter delivery each weekday to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.