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Almost half of extortion attempts demand payment in Bitcoin

As institutions around the world deal with the fallout from a global cyber-attack, figures from Grant Thornton reveal that almost half of all instances of businesses facing extortion during a cyber-attack are met with a demand to pay ransom in the form of Bitcoin.  Many of the victims of this most recent attack have faced a demand to pay using the virtual currency.

Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) shows that globally, nearly one in five businesses (17%) that have faced a cyber-attack in the last 12 months have been subjected to extortion or blackmail attempts. In almost half (46%) of these cases some or all the money was demanded in Bitcoin.

Paul Jacobs, Global leader – Cyber Security Services at Grant Thornton, commented:“Bitcoin is the currency of choice for cyber criminals. For groups and individuals seeking to exploit businesses’ digital weaknesses, the rise of virtual currency must seem like the perfect opportunity. The anonymous nature of Bitcoin using sophisticated encryption allows cyber-criminals to conceal their identities while receiving funds.   

“Business leaders need to understand the implications of paying ransoms in Bitcoin. It is anonymous, virtually untraceable, and it supports global criminal activity and terrorism.”

Mike Harris, Partner – Cyber Security Services at Grant Thornton, added:“Cybercrime must be combatted from a number of angles, all the way from prevention through to shutting down the mechanisms to launder the proceeds. The prevalence of Bitcoin in the cyber world must be a cause of concern to regulators, policy makers in financial regulation, compliance professionals, and genuine users of Bitcoin.”

“Businesses should be looking to confront, rather than submit to, the demands of cyber criminals. As the nature of the cyber threat continues to evolve, a strong culture of risk management must be embedded across any business. It is not just about training staff or hiring experts to deal with cyber-attacks, but also creating an environment where firms can talk about cyber risks and share information. By having that culture in place and sharing experiences, firms stand a better chance of emerging from attacks with their finances and their reputation intact.”

Notes to editors

The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), launched in 1992 initially in nine European countries, now provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 10,000 businesses per year across 37 economies.  More information:

Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each participating country having the option to ask a small number of country specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. Fieldwork is undertaken on a quarterly basis, primarily by telephone. IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data for this release are drawn from interviews with more than 2,600 chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives from all industry sectors conducted in July through September 2016.

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