A Calgary liquor store paid a ransom this week to regain access to its computers after hackers infected its database with a virus — and even got an unofficial receipt thanking it for its involuntary "purchase."

The Kensington Wine Market's database was attacked with ransomware — a type of malware.

"It doesn't take your data, it doesn't steal it, but it locks it so that you can't use it," said owner Andrew Ferguson. 

Andrew Ferguson

Andrew Ferguson says he didn't report the incident to police because he didn't want to be told not to pay the hackers. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

"Whoever has done this is going to hold it for ransom to try to get a quick buck out of you to get it back."

The hackers demanded $500 in bitcoin — a form of digital currency.

"Our I.T. guy had to go out for us and purchase bitcoins in order to pay what these guys are demanding," said Ferguson, who speculates they wanted the virtual money as it's more difficult to trace.

Ransom note

Hackers demanded $500 in bitcoin, a form of digital currency, to unlock the computer files of a Calgary business. (Andrew Ferguson)

He says he paid the ransom because his employees could no longer open email, lookup inventory or process sales —  a big problem during the busy holiday season.

'I know there's this concept that you don't negotiate with "terrorists" in situations like this....' - Owner Andrew Ferguson

"I know there's this concept that you don't negotiate with 'terrorists' in situations like this. But paying $500 [bitcoin] in this instance was a much smaller price than if we'd have the uncertainty of having months of not having all of our data."

The store's database is working again and the hackers even sent his I.T. guy an unofficial receipt.

"Once the payment was made, it basically said, 'Thank you for your purchase.'"

Ferguson says he didn't report the incident to the Calgary police because he didn't want to be told not to pay the hackers.

"To be quite honest, the prospect of trying to start from scratch again would have been incredibly daunting."

Ferguson estimates the incident will cost him $5,000 to $6,000 because he had to pay a software and I.T. company overtime to resolve the issue.