UK #Businesses ‘buying #Bitcoin in #desperate #bid to pay off #hackers’ after #cyberattacks

The companies are worried about falling victim to ransomware attacks where cybercriminals threaten to steal or delete data if they are not paid.

Chief McAfee scientist Raj Samani said: “It’s not something that organisations have publicly confirmed, because it says ‘We are willing to pay criminals in the event we are hit by ransomware’.

“However, it is certainly a practice we are aware of.”

Bitcoin is popular with hackers because it is much harder to trace than traditional currencies

Attacks are reportedly so common that staff keep up with the current Bitcoin rates on exchange markets.

Former Ministry of Defence cyber chief Paul Taylor said in the Sunday Telegraph: “Companies are definitely stockpiling Bitcoin in order to be prepared to pay ransoms.”

Concerns have been raised that companies find it easier and safer to pay the ransom rather than report the hack to the police.

Citrix security chief Chris Mayers said: “Businesses that have a stockpile of Bitcoin in anticipation of a ransomware demand may now be tempted to cash in, given the surge in value.

“This could raise the risk to businesses, given the continued growth in ransomware attacks, and a possible future rise in Bitcoin prices.

“Equally, those that do have large stockpiles may be at risk of being raided specifically for Bitcoin piles.”

The concerns come as the price of Bitcoin continued to soar hitting $20,000 for the first time yesterday.

The digital cash shot up in value again today as it doubled the 10,000 dollar milestone it hit in late November.

The cryptocurrency’s staggering recent price rises – more than 1,700 per cent since the start of the year – have driven worries that the market is a bubble that could burst in spectacular fashion.

Bitcoin has climbed almost 80 per cent so far in December alone, putting it on track for its best month in percentage terms since December 2013.

On Friday it reached as high as $17,900 on the Bitstamp exchange.

And just two days later it crossed the threshold of $20,000, adding more than a fifth to its value since last Monday.

The rise comes after a recent survey of 53 economists carried out by the Wall Street Journal found that 51 considered bitcoin’s price unsustainable.

While a survey of Wall Street experts and market strategists by CNBC also claimed they saw bitcoin’s rise as a bubble – with many warning it will inevitably burst.