Since Monday morning, the European branches of German company Mediamarkt have been dealing with a cyber attack. Now RTL Nieuws reports that the hackers are demanding $50 million USD in Bitcoin.
Over a thousand branches were hit by yesterday’s cyber attack. The news was first reported by the Dutch news outlet, which said it based its findings on internal emails they gained access to.
The emails allegedly state that shop computers could no longer be used and indicate that staff were asked to remove the Internet cables from the cash registers and not to restart systems.
RTL says the cybercriminal group Hive is behind the attack and demanding 50 million USD, or €43 million, in Bitcoin. Negotiations are said to be ongoing, but a Belgian spokesperson for Mediamarkt told De Standaard that these are “rumours.”
An international report by insurer Hiscox showed last May that more than four in ten (or 42 percent) Belgian companies were hit by at least one cyber attack in the past year.
Asking for the ransom in Bitcoin isn’t unusual. Earlier this year, an Antwerp company paid hackers over €250,000 in Bitcoin after a cyber attack, even though the Centre for Cybersecurity has advised against paying ransom to cybercriminal organisations for years.
“At that moment you are negotiating with a criminal organisation. You never know whether you will get your encrypted data back or whether the organisation will leave no traces,” Katrien Eggers of the Centre for Cybersecurity told De Standaard.
Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $68,513 USD in early Asian trading on Tuesday, according to Belga News Agency, and the combined value of all cryptocurrencies surpassed $3 trillion on Monday.
Bitcoin was up 3.2% and Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency in market size, was up 1.6% at $4,814.
“Both cryptocurrencies have more than doubled since June and have gained nearly 70% against the dollar since the start of October,” said Christian Parisot, an analyst at Aurel BGC.
“Momentum has accelerated since the launch last month of a futures-based Bitcoin exchange-traded fund in the US, which has raised expectations of flow-induced gains.”
Some investors believe that cryptocurrencies are a way to protect themselves from inflation, which is rising in Europe and North America.
The cryptocurrency market was worth $3.081 billion USD at around 10:00 AM Belgian time on Tuesday, according to CoinGecko, a website that tracks the market for more than 10,000 cryptocurrencies.