There could be multiple reasons for the recent surge in full-blown ransomware attacks. It is one of the most preferred lucrative attack vectors used by cybercriminals.
Malicious actors crippled the Colonial Pipeline in 2021. Cybercriminals extorted USD 4.4 mn as ransom from them to restore their oil operations. Enterprises must be aware of the potential threats of a sophisticated ransomware attack.
SecOps teams should have proactive cybersecurity strategies to minimize ransomware risks and threats. Despite the best cybersecurity practices and tools, businesses still face significant threats. If organizations cannot detect a ransomware attack in advance, their sensitive data will get encrypted, extracted, or shared in the public domain.
By the time cybercriminals start demanding ransom extortion money, it is already too late. The malicious actors have achieved their goals, and they just now have to gain through it. Now the CISOs and decision-makers have to decide whether or not to pay the demanded ransom.
Many CISOs ponder this question to understand whether paying the demanded ransom is a good idea. The answer to it should be well-thought and then taken to minimize the negative impact. In this article, let’s explore whether paying demanded ransomware is a good idea.
Reasons Why Enterprises Pay Demanded Ransom
Many decision-makers might not confess that they paid to regain their critical IT infrastructure. Not many businesses disclose a successful ransomware attack. They choose to stay silent about ransomware attacks to avoid reputational damages. Hence, it allows cybercriminals to extort ransomware payments in secrecy.
The amount asked for ransomware payments is increasing with time. Still, many businesses prefer to succumb to the cybercriminal’s needs and pay the demanded amount. Here are a few reasons why the majority of businesses pay for ransomware payment:
Cybercriminals focus on encrypting data or crippling critical IT infrastructure to disrupt operations. If it takes a long time to restore data, it will result in expensive outages. Hence Decision makers think paying the demanded ransomware payment is a better and cheaper option.
Businesses that are a victim of a full-blown ransomware attack will witness revenue loss and reputational harm. Revealing a successful ransomware attack will create client distrust and damage the brand image.
Higher Recovery Costs
Enterprise decision-makers need to be very wise will making the decision. They need to evaluate the ransomware recovery cost without paying the ransom. If the recovery cost exceeds the demanded ransom, it’s worth paying it.
Secure Sensitive Customer or Employee Data
Another significant reason businesses pay is that they avoid exposing customer and employee data. A few malicious attackers threaten to expose data they extracted in the public domain to pressurize enterprises to pay.
Reasons Businesses Should Not Pay for Demanded Ransom
Regulatory bodies and industry veterans think paying the ransom does more damage than benefits. Even though business leaders might get tempted to pay the ransom, here are a few reasons why not to
Boosts Attackers Confidence
Succumbing to the ransomware needs means investing in their future attacks. Paying the ransomware funds these malicious actors to accomplish more sophisticated attacks. The most significant reason not to pay ransomware is that it increases the chances of being a victim again. If the word gets out that the company paid the demanded ransom, other groups will start targeting them.
Cybercriminals demand payments from the victims in stages. After the first payment, they would give the decryption keys. They would ask for another payment to release the data.
There is No Guarantee of Data Recovery
Even when the decision-makers pay the demanded ransom, there is no guarantee. The cybercriminals might not return the data even when businesses pay the full ransomware payment. According to the recent report published by Sophos titled “The State of Ransomware 2023,” 46% paid the ransom and got the data back.
Making ransom payments might put the company in legal litigation. These cybercriminals might use the funding for their own malicious goals. Paying ransomware attackers can fund nation-state hacker groups to end up in legal trouble.
Succumbing to the demands allows the vicious cycle to continue. Malicious attackers will not reconsider this attack vector until it isn’t lucrative. One effective way to disrupt the cycle is by refusing the ransom demands. It will force the brute forces to move on to a different way to make money.
What Happens When Organizations Pay Ransom?
Once the business decision-makers have decided to pay the ransomware payment, the hackers will offer a decryption tool to recover the entire data as it was before the attack.
But paying the entire amount doesn’t guarantee to restore the entire data. Business leaders must thoroughly evaluate their situation and make data-driven strategic decisions to minimize the impact.
Following are a few factors that security decision-makers need to consider carefully:
- The encryption file offered by hackers is usually unrecoverable. Decryption keys provided by them might crash or fail. SecOps teams may have to develop a new decryption tool by extracting keys from the tool the attacker provides.
- It can be a time-consuming process to recover data.
- Moreover, there is no surety whether the cybercriminal will delete the stolen data. They might keep a backup for selling or using it for their malicious intent in the future.
These are the factors that security leaders, CISOs, and other business decision-makers need to consider before deciding whether or not to pay ransom.