Canadian University Pays $20,000 to Ransomware Cybercriminals

The University of Calgary has revealed that it paid a $20,000 ransom in bitcoins to cybercriminals who targeted the institution in a comprehensive cyberattack.

On May 28, the University of Calgary was attacked by ransomware hackers, with 100 systems reportedly affected in the attack. Linda Dalgetty, the school’s vice-president of finance and services stated that the attack had crippled several systems, leaving the administration no choice but to cave in and pay the ransom demand, according to the Calgary Herald.

The decision was taken in order to ensure that critical systems were restored after the ransomware attack, she revealed. However, she added that the school’s IT team will still take time to apply the decryption keys provided to them by the hackers.

“At this point, we do have some encrypted machines. We have not used any of the decryption keys,” she revealed.

Related read: FBI’s Advice to Ransom-ware Victims: Don’t Pay

The school’s IT team had been working around the clock for over a week in trying to fix the disruption which affected features and software including emails, Skype, wireless networks and more. Additionally, those who were issued computers by the university were advised to leave them off, while the threat from hackers was still at large.

Dalgetty was asked why the university revealed the cost of the ransom by the publication. To this, she pointed a collective effort to being transparent, as the reason behind the public reveal.

“We’re a public sector organization and we pride ourselves on our openness,” she stated.

The Calgary Police Service is involved in the incident, with it being a criminal act. An official statement from the University of Calgary, via its website, read:

As part of efforts to maintain all options to address these systems issues, the university has paid a ransom totalling about $20,000 CDN that was demanded as part of this “ransomware” attack.

Furthermore, the email system used by faculty and staff is functional again, as of Monday. There is no reason or indication that the any data was breached form the university’s servers.

 Image credit: University of Calgary.