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Mark Gilbert

How to Negotiate With Cyber Terrorists During a Pandemic

Ransomware attacks are on the rise as companies are distracted by the coronavirus.

If they're hackers, pray they're not clowns.

If they're hackers, pray they're not clowns.

Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty images

As the pandemic trashes the world economy, one business is booming. The number of ransomware attacks, where hackers encrypt a user’s data files and then demand payment to restore access, climbed by 20% in the first half of the year to reach 121.4 million assaults, according to data security firm SonicWall.

Many of the victims chose to pay up. In June, the University of California said it paid $1.14 million to extortionists who’d besieged servers at its medical school. CWT, a travel-management company, handed over $4.5 million worth of Bitcoin last month to resolve a hack, Reuters reported. Garmin Ltd., which sells portable devices linked to global positioning systems, suffered outages in the final week of July it said were due to a cyber attack. While the company hasn’t commented on how it solved the interruptions, various media reports put the ransom demand at $10 million.