E-Sports Site ESEA Hacked, 1.5M Users' Account Data Released After Refusing To Pay Ransom

E-Sports Entertainment Association (ESEA) has been hacked and asked to pay ransom, but it refused. As a result, hackers released stolen data from more than 1.5 million accounts.

Ransomware is a serious threat and in most cases, hackers hold machines hostage until companies pay up to regain access. With ESEA, a company focused on hosting competitive video games tournaments, the ransomware attack turned ugly.

ESEA Ransom: $100K

The company says that it learned about the breach on Dec. 27, 2016, when a "threat actor" managed to steal ESEA user data. The hacker demanded a ransom payment of $100,000, threatening to publish or sell user data otherwise.

ESEA refused to pay the ransom, arguing that it doesn't negotiate with attackers.

"We do not give into extortion and ransom demands and we take the security of customers' data very seriously," says ESEA. "In addition to investigating the incident and reporting it to the authorities, we have been working to isolate the vector attack and secure the vulnerability."

Stolen User Data Dumped Online

The company further notes that this incident has resulted in some system downtime recently. At the same time, its firm stance not to give in to the threat has resulted in compromised user data being dumped online.

Following ESEA's decision not to pay the $100,000 in ransom, the attackers proceeded to release the stolen user data including private messages, emails and phone numbers.

1.5-Plus Million ESEA Accounts Compromised

ESEA did not specify just how many user accounts were compromised, but LeakedSource, a website tracking and storing stolen databases, reveals that more than 1.5 million ESEA user accounts have been affected.

The company is confident that giving in to ransom demands and putting up with the attempted extortion was not an acceptable solution and even if it did pay the ransom, it wouldn't have guaranteed that the stolen user data would've been safe.

ESEA apologizes for the incident and says it's working with the FBI and cooperating in any on-going investigations regarding the breach. At the same time, the company is urging users to change their passwords as a precaution, if they haven't already changed it since the Dec. 30 update.

Ransomware Attacks On The Rise

The latest cyberattack targeting ESEA is just the latest in what seems to be a growing and alarming trend. Ransomware attacks are on the rise, Cisco warned in its annual security report [PDF] for 2016, noting that nearly 10,000 people and businesses end up paying extortion money each month so they wouldn't have their sensitive data released or otherwise compromised. The average ransom payment is roughly $300 according to Cisco, but there have also been far higher ransom demands. Back in late November, for instance, San Francisco's Muni public transportation service was hacked and held for ransom, with the attackers demanding a hefty $73,000.

The ESEA demanded ransom is even higher at $100,000, and the released data proves that hackers were not just bluffing. The alarming trend seems to be getting increasingly serious and shows the great risks of not implementing adequate cybersecurity defenses.

ESEA users are advised to change their passwords and security questions / answers not only on the ESEA website, but also on any other online accounts for which they might have used the same information.

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