The hackers turned the data at the University of Calgary into gibberish but provided decryption keys once they received the equivalent of $20,000 (Canadian dollars) in bitcoins. The university had been unable to resolve the problem without paying the ransom. The attack led to data like emails becoming encrypted.
One expert has warned that paying this ransom would just lead to more attacks and more blackmail. The attack took place in the same week that Intel warned that this type of data security breach is on the rise.
There are now more than 120 different types of ransomware, which are often updated, making it difficult for experts to keep up to date with solutions. The university has said that the problem affected more than 100 computers and it is now assessing the decryption keys, but there is no guarantee that they will be able to get the data back. The matter is also in the hands of the police.
Other high profile organisations have also paid out ransoms this year to retrieve data, but Dr Steven Murdoch from University College London believes that paying will encourage more instances of ransomware. Hackers are also now threatening that in the event the ransom is not paid, the data they have stolen will be published online, which encourages more victims to pay out. The University of Calgary does not believe that any personal data has been published for the public to see.