Dutch university gets cyber ransom back with interest

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A Dutch university that fell victim to a massive ransomware attack has partially recovered its stolen money… which has since more than doubled, according to a news report on Saturday.

The southern Maastricht University was hit by a major cyberattack in 2019, in which criminals used ransomware, a type of malware that locks valuable data and can only be accessed if the victim pays an amount of ransom.

“The criminals had encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems and prevented 25,000 students and staff from accessing academic data, libraries and emails,” said the daily De Volkskrant.

The hackers demanded 200,000 euros (about 1.6 billion rupees) in bitcoins.

“After a week, the university decides to comply with the criminal gang’s request,” the newspaper said.

“One of the reasons for this was that personal data was in danger of being lost and students could not take exams or work on their theses,” it said.

Dutch police traced part of the ransom paid to a money launderer’s account in Ukraine.

Prosecutors seized this man’s account in 2020, which contained a number of different cryptocurrencies, including part of the ransom paid by Maastricht.

“When we finally managed to bring this money to the Netherlands after more than two years, the value had risen from 40,000 euros to half a million euros,” the newspaper says.

Maastricht University is now getting the 500,000 euros (about 4.1 billion rupees) back.

“This money does not go to a general fund, but to a fund to support financially struggling students,” said Michiel Borgers, ICT Director at Maastricht University.

Investigations into the hackers responsible for the attack on the university are ongoing, added De Volkskrant.


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