Photo: YLE Annu Paasoja
Back in the old days criminals could demand a ransom in banknotes, to be delivered in a bag to some lonely spot in exchange for the victim, or they could demand a payment to a bank account in somewhere like the Virgin Islands. The money would then disappear together with the criminals. Today, in this connected world, this form of blackmail has almost stopped because the police and the security forces can always trace the perpetrators of such heists.
But there is another reason why this has stopped. Ransoms can now be conveniently demanded by a payment of Bitcoins which are virtually untraceable.
This has recently happened to a good friend of your correspondent, Mr. Seppo Salo, see story on Finnish news media. He has a modern and diversified small business in Rovaniemi called Vintikki Oy. He has worked hard to build up a successful business, and on the day of his business’ 6th anniversary he was confronted with a ransom demand from some foreign criminals who had closed down his cash register system by planting malware on it and encrypted all of the files. They demanded €10 000 as a ransom in bitcoins to unlock the system.
This robbery closed his business for 3 days and caused a huge loss of business and many extra expenses… He refused to pay the thieves, and, although he called the police, he was told that they were powerless to catch them.
Mr. Salo is no fool and is street-smart about IT security. He had purchased the cash register system from a reputable Finnish supplier where his contract specifically said that whole system is to be kept secure and updated with the latest software to prevent such occurrences. He is also insured against such problems… but this was not enough to stop the chaos of the next few days.
He still had to employ some IT consultants for 2 full days at outrageous hourly rates. He also had to buy new licences for additional software that they recommended. The original cash register supplier did not think this was necessary! And finally he has had to employ extra staff to reconstruct the cash system from scratch.
He till has much to do to get his business back to normal – he has to spend time with the insurance company, with the police check all his other systems to ensure the best security.
What can a small business do when faced with this type of crime and what should the authorities do to stop such crime from being repeated?
The first thing that comes to mind is to have a national statistics on how many small businesses have suffered from these types of crime. He suspects that there are many small business owners who suffer from this type of crime, but without hard data on the numbers of affected companies it is difficult to demand that the authorities act.
The second thing that comes to mind ids that Bitcoin should be banned from operating within the EU. Why should a system that give obvious protection to criminals be allowed to operate and flourish when we already have perfectly good payment systems that are transparent and regulated.
Mr. Salo has asked FinnishNews to announce a nation-wide hunt for similar robberies where Bitcoin payments are demanded to unlock a companies encrypted files.
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