University pays €200,000 to avoid research data loss.

The university paid €200,000 for avoidingt significant losses in research data and resources in December 2019.

Following the successful resolution of the December 2019 ransomware attack, Maastricht University (UM) in the Netherlands is expected to recover nearly €500,000 worth of Bitcoin (BTC).

In 2019, hackers attacked the said university and froze all its research data, emails and library resources. The hackers demanded €200,000 in BTC. The university decided to pay the amount fearing that it would lose critical research data if it didn't.

In 2020, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (DDPS) located one of the crypto wallets associated with the hack in Ukraine and froze funds in that account valued at only €40,000 at that time. The following two years, the DPPS managed to secure the contents of that account which included nearly a fifth of BTC stolen.

The part ransom that the authorities recovered has doubled in value since the university paid it two and a half years ago, thanks to the price surge of bitcoin during its bull run in 2021.

The university in its official statement said that although the monetary value of the recovered ransom is higher, it cannot undo the damages done by hackers. In an official blog post, the university said:

“The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service was able to seize cryptocurrencies worth approximately €500,000 which may be made available to UM. This is still less than the damages incurred by the university, but it is a nice sum to be used to support students in need.”

The DPPS currently holds the money that was seized. A legal proceeding has been initiated to transfer the funds to the university, and the executive board of the university plans to use it for students in financial need.

When authorities seize crypto funds, it highlights the importance of a decentralized and transparent public ledger system that BTC and crypto in general use. While critics often portray crypto as an opaque and anonymous system that criminals prefer, research data indicate that less than 1% of current crypto in circulation is associated with illicit activities.

In the past, stolen and ransom crypto funds have been successfully tracked down and recovered. For example, the United States authorities managed to recover $2.3 million in crypto from the Colonial Pipeline ransom.