Dutch University recovers its Bitcoin ransomware payment while making small profits

  • Due to the Bitcoin price appreciation since 2019, the Dutch University recovered more than the ransom paid.
  • Netherlands’ Maastricht University said that all the recovered funds shall go towards helping students in need.

In a remarkable achievement, Netherlands’ Maastricht University has recovered all Bitcoins it paid to a ransomware scum back in 2019. Back in December 2019, the university suffered a ransomware attack that prevents its staff and students from accessing research data, library resources, and emails.

Faced with the threat of the hacker deleting the entire data, the university decided to pay a bounty of €200,000. Post that, they were able to resume normal operations soon.

However, the Maastricht University later joined hands with the investigators to probe the matter. The University cooperated with Netherlands’ police and the Public Prosecution Service. The press release notes:

The transaction left traces that eventually pointed to a suspect. The Public Prosecution Service and police’s investigation was mainly digital in nature, but also used financial and tactical strategies. Soon the search led outside of the Netherlands and a close international cooperation was formed with various countries in which data could be collected.

After two years of efforts, the University managed to secure the contents of those accounts and some of the crypto. Although the BTC recovered is only a fifth of the ransom paid, its value is €500,000 due to the appreciating BTC price.

Using profits for benefitting students

The University is still pursuing legal action to recover all of the BTC. The Dutch university has decided that the profits derived shall move into a fund for students in need. Speaking of the development, Maastricht University Vice-President Bos said:

The cyber attack showed how vulnerable students can be in their study progress, but certainly also financially. The crises we have experienced since then have only further underlined this vulnerability. In light of this, the Executive Board considers the use of these funds to help students in need very appropriate.

On paper, the Dutch University has recovered more than two-fold in profits against the ransom paid. However, “it is significantly less than the damage the university actually suffered as a result of the attack,” the university said. Currently, the seized funds are with the Public Prosecution Service. The Dutch Ministry of Justice has initiated a legal proceeding of moving the funds to UM.

This is not the first incident through which agencies have worked on recovering the lost Bitcoin. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice seized over $3.6 billion in Bitcoin linked to the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex crypto exchange. As per the report, the authorities got access to an online account managed and controlled by hackers.