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Hyderabad based firms pay millions in ransom to hackers

Several Hyderabad-based firms are falling victim to ransomware attacks or cyber-extortion tactics that hold their computer systems hostage till a mammoth ransom is coughed up — ranging from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 2 crore.

Four companies — two pharma firms, a software company and a cement maker — from Telangana were among those that suffered such attacks in recent months.

Ethical hackers — security experts who act like malicious intruders to reveal a system’s vulnerabilities — and cyber experts said most companies don’t report a ransomware attack, fearing plummeting stocks or loss of prestige among shareholders.

A few months ago, the software firm in Kukatpally found its system compromised and encrypted along with an email demanding ransom money in bitcoins within a deadline. Company officials swiftly touched base with the hacker, negotiated the ransom deal and got a portion of their critical data back, but not after coughing up $46,000 (Rs 38 lakh). Experts said any time loss in reacting to a data hijack can completely shut down systems.

Experts said most ransomware attacks originate from China, Russia or North Korea. In almost all cases, ransom is sought in bitcoins. But vulnerabilities remain, with hackers retaining a part of the data even after ransom is paid. ToI

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