After paying a ransom in Bitcoin (BTC) to regain access to data that was stolen by ransomware, a university in the Netherlands was able to retrieve the cryptocurrency and make a sizeable profit off of it.
The incident occurred in 2019, and as a result, faculty, staff, and students at Maastricht University were unable to access crucial personal data, including academic work, according to a report by Dutch daily news outlet De Volkskrant.
In order for the institution to obtain access to the data, the cybercriminals wanted a ransom payment of €200,000 (about $208,000) in Bitcoin. After a thorough investigation, the Dutch police were able to locate the bank account of a money launderer in Ukraine into which €40,000 of the ransom had been transferred.
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About two years later, they were successful in paying back the share of the ransom that had been owed to the institution. Since that time, the value of the Bitcoin that was stored in the account had climbed from €40,000 to €500,000, which was more than twelve times the first ransom that the institution had paid.
Data was at risk of disappearing
The University had initially decided to pay the ransom since there was a possibility that the data might be lost.
“The criminals had encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems, preventing 25,000 students and employees from accessing scientific data, library and mail,” De Volkskrant said.
The account was seized by the authorities, and it was discovered to hold a number of other cryptocurrencies. This would prevent some students from taking tests or completing academic assignments.
The ransom could have been worth millions
In the event that the whole ransom was paid, the new value would have been €2.5 million, supposing that the price of one Bitcoin remained the same over that period.
Michiel Borgers, the director of information and communication technology at Maastricht University, said that the extra €300,000 would be sent to a fund that assists students who are having trouble meeting their financial obligations.
The police are continuing their investigation into the matter with the aim of discovering who was responsible for the crime.