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UK News British firms paid out £200m in ransoms to cyber criminals last year

12:47  31 july  2020
12:47  31 july  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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MPs are demanding tougher laws against the payment of ransoms to criminal cybergroups and called for more police and security agency resources to tackle their activities.Cybersecurity specialists.

Thousands of British firms are held to ransom by Russian cyber - criminals who hack into computers and Many firms don't report them and pay hackers to avoid any embarrassment. Around a quarter of British In August this year , shipping firm Maersk was hit by attack which cost it up to £ 200 million.

British businesses were forced to pay out more than £200 million in ransoms to cybercriminal gangs last year, it has been revealed.

High profile companies including smartwatch maker Garmin, foreign exchange giant Travelex and the National Trust have been targeted with malicious software by hackers, many from Russia or Eastern European countries.

They have then charged tens of millions of pounds to get back up and running.

Fears of public embarrassment, fines from regulators and lost data means firms are now showing 'more willingness to pay the ransom', according to the Times.

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British advertising agency WPP is among those to say its IT systems have been disrupted as a consequence. "It initially appeared to be a variant of a piece of ransomware that emerged last year ," said computer scientist Prof Alan "It's the biggest incentive you could offer to a cyber - criminal ."

Criminals across the world have made an estimated £19 billion from the practice, which has proved so successful that job listings have even appeared on the dark web to attract recruits.

A number of attacks across the globe, including the hit on Garmin, was reportedly carried out by a group called Evil Corp, headed by 33-year-old Russian playboy hacker, Maksim Yakubets, who drives a customized £190,000 Lamborghini, complete with a number plate that says 'thief'.

a man in a police car on the street: A number of attacks across the globe, including the hit on Garmin, was reportedly carried out by a group called Evil Corp, headed by 33-year-old Russian playboy hacker, Maksim Yakubets, who drives a customized £190,000 Lamborghini, complete with a number plate that says 'thief' © Provided by Daily Mail A number of attacks across the globe, including the hit on Garmin, was reportedly carried out by a group called Evil Corp, headed by 33-year-old Russian playboy hacker, Maksim Yakubets, who drives a customized £190,000 Lamborghini, complete with a number plate that says 'thief' a close up of a cell phone: Watchmaker Garmin was a victim of an attack and ended up having to close its services for a week © Provided by Daily Mail Watchmaker Garmin was a victim of an attack and ended up having to close its services for a week

MPs demand ransoms be made illegal

Calls have been made for tougher laws against the payment of ransoms, which are legal to make unless it is known the money is for the purposes of terrorism.

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MPs are  and more resources for police and security agencies, after the World Economic Forum described a 'stunning enforcement gap' in dealing with cybercrime.

Security specialists have warned ransomware attacks is proving an increasingly attractive proposition for criminals due to the lucrative returns and slim chances of getting caught.

Julian Knight, Tory chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, told the Times: 'The UK has always massively under-invested in the area of tackling cybercrime, making our country a soft target. I urge extra to be spent on proper policing and our government to redouble efforts to coordinate a global response.'

Analysts add that publicity can play into the hands of criminals as high profile companies who fall victim to attacks may feel encouraged to pay up to avoid having their name splashed in the media.

Furthermore, insurance firms are increasingly urging clients to pay the ransom when attacked in order to regain access to files and avoid even greater costs long-term.

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Traditional criminals have also embraced technology in the interests of a more efficient and profitable organisation. Although it is still a small part of the total, sales for last year rose by a robust 21 per cent to As broker Collins Stewart points out , it is one of the few pure plays in cyber security for UK

Information about millions of people was copied by the unidentified criminal who gave assurances that it had all been 'destroyed' after a ransom was paid . The National Trust is the latest of more than 80 organisations to have personal data stolen by a hacker who has been paid off with ransom money.

The downtime cost for a ransomware attack averages more than £4,277 a minute, according to consultancy firm, Gartner.

The United States has put up a $5million (£3.8million) reward – the largest ever offered for a cyber-criminal – for Yakubets' capture.

US consultancy Emsisoft said British companies have likely been hit by 5,000 'ransomware' attacks last year, which resulted in estimated payments of £210m to criminals, often in the form of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which can't be traced to an individual.

The ransom figure could be even higher with many businesses reluctant to admit they had taken part, as the Emsisoft report reveals only France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the US have paid out more than Britain in ransom fees.

It comes as MPs demand tougher laws against the payment of ransoms, which are legal to make unless it is known the money is for the purposes of terrorism, and more resources for police and security agencies, after the World Economic Forum described a 'stunning enforcement gap' in dealing with cybercrime.

Former cabinet minister David Davis told the Times: 'It should be illegal. Companies are just being irresponsible in paying these people off.'

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The National Crime Agency added that a decision ultimately lies with the victim but said it encourages industry and the public not to pay up.

Recent victims of hacking include 33 British universities and dozens of charities such as the National Trust, who were hit by an attack on Blackbaud, a software provider they all used.

Garmin was also a victim, and ended up having to close its services for a week, as was Travelex which had to use pen and paper when serving customers.

Blackbaud, Garmin and Travelex are all believed to have paid ransoms to regain access to networks.

Brett Callow, a threat analyst for Emsisoft said: 'The groups are successfully hunting ever bigger game.  Organisations paid about $25 billion in ransom demands in 2019, which means the groups have no shortage of money to invest in ramping up their operations in terms of scale and sophistication.'

a castle on top of a grass covered field with Knole House in the background: Recent victims of hacking include dozens of charities such as the National Trust (Knole house in Kent, pictured), who were hit by an attack on Blackbaud, a software provider they all used © Provided by Daily Mail Recent victims of hacking include dozens of charities such as the National Trust (Knole house in Kent, pictured), who were hit by an attack on Blackbaud, a software provider they all used Travelex had to use pen and paper when serving customers after being targeted by hackers © Provided by Daily Mail Travelex had to use pen and paper when serving customers after being targeted by hackers

The NCA, Metropolitan Police and National Cyber Security Centre, working alongside the US Justice Department and FBI, have spent five years investigating Evil Corp, which is said to pose the 'most significant cyber-crime threat to the UK'.

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According to investigators, Evil Corp has targeted the UK for a decade. It uses several types of rogue software that have intercepted bank transfers from the public and hundreds of businesses including schools and religious organisations.

Yakubets is alleged to have run the operation since May 2009 from the basements of Moscow cafes.

He is said to have employed dozens of people to steal money from victims in 43 countries using computer viruses that are designed to target only victims outside Russia.

The 'malware' is downloaded when a victim clicks on an email attachment. It remains hidden on their computer to harvest their personal and financial data such as online banking details – which is subsequently used to drain their accounts.

Operating online under the name Aqua, the hacker and his associates are accused of stealing at least £76million.

US treasury officials also say Yakubets has provided 'direct assistance to the Russian government' by acquiring confidential documents for the FSB.

He was also said to be part of a scheme in which Russian intelligence agencies recruit criminals to hack national security targets.

The Information Commissioner's Office said this week 'multiple' organisations in the UK had been hit.

A spokeswoman said: 'People have the right to expect that organisations will handle their personal information securely and responsibly. If an individual has concerns about how their data has been handled, they should raise it with the organisation first then report them to us if they are not satisfied with the response.'

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