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Bitcoin's gains fuel skyrocketing rise in ransomware attacks

The percentage of companies reporting financially motivated cyber attacks has doubled over the past two years, with 50 percent experiencing a cyber attack motivated by ransom in the past year, according to a report by security vendor Radware.

As the value of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies—often the preferred form of payment among hackers—has appreciated, ransom-based attacks provide an opportunity for hackers to cash out for lucrative gains months later.

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Employees read a ransomware demand for the payment of $300 worth of bitcoin on company computers infected by the 'Petya' software virus inside a retail store in Kiev, Ukraine, on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. The cyberattack similar to WannaCry began in Ukraine Tuesday, infecting computer networks and demanding $300 in cryptocurrency to unlock their systems before spreading to different parts of the world. Photographer: Vincent Mundy/Bloomberg

Radware’s Global Application and Network Security Report is a study compiled by the company’s Emergency Response Team (ERT), leveraging vendor-neutral survey data from 605 IT executives worldwide spanning several industries.

The number of companies that reported ransomware attacks in which hackers used malware to encrypt data, systems, and networks until a ransom was paid increased 40 percent in 2017 compared with 2016. Companies don’t expect the threat to go away in 2018, with 26 percent expecting to see ransomware as the largest threat to their business sector in the coming year.

Among other key findings of the report, businesses are most concerned with their data when hit with a cyber attack. Respondents said data leakage was their top business concern, followed by reputation loss and service outages. Despite 24 percent of businesses reporting cyber attacks daily or weekly, nearly 80 percent of surveyed organizations have not come up with a calculation for the cost of attacks, and one in three lack a cyber security emergency response plan.

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