No business or organisation is immune from ransomware attacks, with governments, schools and even hospitals being targeted with demands for huge sums. But if you pay these ransoms, are you just adding fuel to the fire?
Ransomware is a term that’s been used more and more frequently to explain the blackmailing of companies and organisations that fall victim to secretive gangs of hackers.
Ransomware gangs base themselves in countries that don’t cooperate with international law enforcement such as Russia and Iran. North Korea has even been accused of running its own ransomware divisions whose profits help to prop up the failing state.
High profile cases such as the recent U.S Colonial Pipeline paying £3.1m to ransomware hackers made international headlines, and it’s believed schools and colleges on the Isle of Wight have been crippled by attacks, forcing them to delay term time come September.
The arguments for and against paying the blackmailers is no different to any other kind of extortion. If the hackers think there is a market to exploit, then ransomware will continue. But, if organisations don’t pay, can they survive at all?
According to a recent cybersecurity report, attacks increased by 485% in 2020 alone. Home working during the pandemic played its part to a large degree, with poorly secured remote access logins a common route in.
Experts believe that around half of ransomware demands are paid – the pressure of threat to livelihoods and business continuity outweighing the need to try and cut off the source of illegal funding to the gangs.
In the world of ransomware, there are no moral absolutes. To not pay up is a principled stance but a stance many simply cannot afford to take. Without the encryption keys needed to unlock hackers’ grasps on systems, they would remain locked, and trying to find a way in to bypass the ransom can often cost more than the original demand.
When Atlanta refused to pay a £36,000 ransom in 2018, it cost the city more than £1.8m to rebuild.
Some believe that companies who “allow” cybersecurity breaches through lax systems should be liable and fined for the resulting fall out. Another idea being mooted is for Governments to make paying ransoms to cybercriminals illegal.
The key message is that no business, regardless of size or sector, can afford to be complacent. To discuss cyber security protection strategies for your business, contact a member of our team who can help to support your business needs.
Report all Fraud and Cybercrime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or online. Forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).