Is ‘giving in’ the way to go? We’re here to unpack the impact if you decide to pay a ransomware fee and why our recommendation is to try and avoid it.

By definition, ransomware is a form of malware that locks a user’s computer, hijacking its systems and data until a restoration fee is paid for its release.

The question of whether to pay a ransomware fee is always subject to each specific case, but in most circumstances, the recommendation is to avoid doing so.

While paying a small ransom to obtain your data may seem the best choice at the moment, the risk of being hit again increases and there is no guarantee that any of the files will be returned.

It is critical if you experience an attack to identify what data has been compromised and, what repercussions not paying could have to your organisation, whether that be financial losses or impacting your customer relationships. Another important aspect is identifying whether the ransom payment is legal. As MinisterEllison found, if you know or suspect that the ransom payment that is made part of a money-laundering operation or, made towards a terrorist organisation, you could be making an illegal payment.

How do you prevent being affected by ransom?

Not needing to pay a ransom all begins with having secure processes in place.

Just as you wouldn’t start a new job without being prepared, or many wouldn’t go on holidays without purchasing extensive travel insurance – an organisation that chooses not to back up its data is risky behaviour.

An organisation’s critical information being held to ransom is not new, and sadly will not be going away any time soon. Smaller organisations are not safe either. With the impending threat of information being held to ransom, it appears more important than ever to be aware of the facts.

According to the 2019 Cyber Edge Report, the percentage of organisations victimised by ransom, and who decided to pay rose from 38.7% to 45% in a pool of approximately 1,200 participants. These findings are incredible to see and beg the question of why organisations aren’t investing in data backup to increase security.

This same Cyber Edge Report found the reasons why organisations had failed to secure their data is wide-reaching and diverse. The two major factors identified were low-security awareness among employees, and a lack of skilled personnel (these respondents obviously weren’t working with a Managed Service Provider).

To pay or not to pay?

While not paying a ransom fee is always the recommended choice, in practice, this can be difficult. Reality is that many organisations want to be up and running in the event of a ransom, and will often pay whatever it takes to obtain their data as quickly as possible.

Of course, if your organisation does choose to pay a ransom fee, the risk remains that the data may not be returned to them. Statistics prove this, the Cyber Edge Report surveying 1,200 organisations found 17.5% who decided to pay the ransom ended up losing its data.

Another risk if your organisation does decide to pay a ransom is that you will become a target to other cyber attacks. If money is exchanged and you’re known to pay, the risk of being targeted again increases. Becoming a target because you decide to pay any ransom that comes your way is definitely not what you want to be known for.

Paying a ransom fee remains the unpopular choice. Being proactive with data through IT security measures that include data backup and disaster recoveries will continue to act as an insurance to your data.

Is it time your organisation reviewed its cybersecurity strategy?