What happens if you pay ransomware? Getting hit with a ransomware attack is never fun, your files get encrypted by cyber criminals and you’re left having to decide: what happens when you pay for ransomware? It’s a scene that’s played out across the world with 70% of businesses saying ‘yes’ in 2016 alone. Here’s what you should consider if you’re ever in this situation.
Should you trust the criminals?
Besides the fact that they’re criminals holding your data hostage, how confident are you that they’ll send the decryption key? Most attackers demand you send the payment via untraceable Bitcoin, so you have no recourse if they take it and run. You’re also equally trapped if they decide they asked too little and come back with increasingly higher demands. If they do send the decryption key, be aware they still have access to your systems and can hit you again at any time until your network is disinfected by experts. Businesses don’t exactly want their breach publicized either, so many don’t admit to paying the ransom, whether it went as planned or otherwise.
Can you manage the impact?
Best case scenario, you can wipe the affected drives and restore from a clean backup without paying the ransom. You might even decide the encrypted files aren’t that important and simply let them go, or even wipe a whole laptop or workstation. On the other hand, if your data management comes under any special regulations, like health or legal, you may find the attack has a much wider, more intense impact. The attacker will usually give you a countdown to motivate a payment, with a threat of deletion when it hits zero. What happens if you pay ransomware and the data isn’t that valuable, or you have confirmed backups, this urgency has no effect. There are also new types of ransomware like KillDisk which can permanently wipe your entire hard drive or even network.
How much do they want?
Cyber criminals rarely send out global attacks with set amounts, instead, they prefer to customize the ransom based on how much they think you can pay. Large corporations and hospitals are hit with very high demands, while small business demands are more modest. They may be criminals, but they’re smart people who know your financial limits. They’ll also consider how much similar businesses have paid and how quickly, then expect you to follow suit.
Are your backups good?
Many businesses are discovering too late that their backup systems aren’t robust enough to withstand this type of attack. Either they’ve become infected too, they weren’t up-to-date or they backed up the wrong data. It’s worth doing some quick checks on your backup processes as even if you have to take the system down for a day as you recover, you’re still light years ahead of those without them.
What’s your policy?
More and more often, businesses are adding ransomware to their disaster recovery plans and having predefined actions mapped out. Seemingly simple inclusions like who has final say over the payment decision can stop chaos in its tracks. Employees and management alike can then approach the situation calmly, ready to make the best decisions for the business.
Stay safe in the first place
Ransomware is showing no signs of slowing down. As more businesses keep them funded the cyber criminals are steadily launching new attacks and making it their full-time job. Most attacks come via phishing emails – those emails that trick employees into clicking a link – and they can be extremely convincing. While training helps people spot them, it’s no guarantee. We recommend using business-class spam filters to catch these types of emails before they land in your employee inboxes so that triggering a ransomware attack becomes something that happens to other businesses, not yours.
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