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NASCAR race team hit with ransomware attack

Hit by a ransomware attack, a NASCAR race team paid to restore data worth millions, then called on Malwarebytes to secure their systems -- and Malwarebytes joined up as a sponsor.

Add NASCAR to the list of high-profile ransomware attack victims after a leading racing team faced losing data worth millions to a TeslaCrypt attack this April.

Faced with the potential loss of data, including "custom, high-profile simulation setups valued at $2 million," the Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (CSLFR) team scrambled to collect bitcoin to pay the ransom and recover their data, NASCAR reported on its website. The CSLFR is a NASCAR racing team that fields the No. 95 car in the Sprint Cup Series.

"Just knowing that we could lose everything that we had worked so hard to achieve was terrifying," said Dave Winston, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief, in a press statement. "The data that they were threatening to take from us was priceless; we couldn't go one day without it greatly impacting the team's future success. This was a completely foreign experience for all of us, and we had no idea what to do. What we did know was that if we didn't get the files back, we would lose years' worth of work valued at millions of dollars."

According to a report on NASCAR's website, the ransomware first infected Winston's system and then spread when malicious files began downloading to other team members' computers via Dropbox, which CSLFR uses for file sharing and cloud storage. The CSLFR team was able to acquire the $500 worth of bitcoin needed to pay the ransom for their data from a bitcoin ATM located just two miles from the team's Concord, N.C., shop, according to NASCAR's website. In its press statement, CSLFR stated that the affected data would have taken 1,500 hours to recreate, but after paying the ransom, the team got the decryption key the next morning.

CSLFR also announced it connected with Malwarebytes after paying the ransom. CSLFR installed Malwarebytes' antimalware software, and found and eliminated additional instances of malware infection from over 10,000 files. The relationship grew, and NASCAR fans will see Malwarebytes as a new sponsor for the team on the track this summer.

"We are honored to be partnering with CSLFR to emphasize to everyone, including the NASCAR community, that ransomware is a very real threat," said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, based in Santa Clara, Calif., in the announcement.

Other high-profile ransomware attacks this year have included a series of ransomware attacks on hospitals, an attack on the University of Calgary and possible ransomware attacks against the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ransomware attacks continue to grow, as their profitability for attackers also grows. The FBI warned in 2015 that businesses had lost at least $18 million to CryptoWall ransomware during the prior year, but by the end of the year, the Cyber Threat Alliance estimated CryptoWall's total take was as high as $325 million.

Next Steps

Read about how cybercriminals are using Microsoft PowerShell to run ransomware attacks.

Learn more about how to prevent damage from a ransomware attack.

Find out what happened when the TeslaCrypt master key was released.

Dig Deeper on Malware, virus, Trojan and spyware protection and removal