Bitcoin and crypto-related ransomware attacks hit a record high in the United Kingdom last year. 

According to a report by Bitcoinist and records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), UK authorities received 562 reports from victims of devices that were hijacked by crypto-related ransomware. 

The attacks involved users and businesses being blackmailed for bitcoin payments in order to access their devices or prevent sensitive information from being stolen. One business in Cumbria claimed a hacker encrypted all of their files before giving them 72 hours to pay a ransom in bitcoin. Another user was threatened with having the details of his internet search history released if he failed to pay the ransom.

Andrew Martin, CEO of Retail Financial Consulting, said cryptocurrency provides an avenue for ransomware attacks,

These incidents underline the risks associated with online currencies, which are often an easy way for anonymous third parties to extort money from victims, without detection.

North Yorkshire Police were involved in the highest number of bitcoin-related crime cases, climbing from six reports in 2018 to 115 in 2019. 

The Greater Manchester area was also impacted by the wave of bitcoin crime, reporting 83 ransomware cases with six of the victims claiming to have “extreme emotional distress and anxiety” following the incident. 

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