The police always advise ransomware victims not to pay for criminal gangs that have encrypted their systems - and there are many good reasons for this.
At the most basic level, even after the money is delivered by the companies, it is not always certain that the hackers will restore the access in their data. After all, they negotiate with fraudsters.
But even if they do get their data back, payment is still a bad idea. It gives scammers a big paycheck, which encourages further attacks - maybe even on the same organization again. And these big profits mean that gangs can invest in hiring more software developers and hackers to pursue even bigger goals.
Paying ransom can give you access to your data, but it will create a bigger problem for everyone else in the long run.
Currently, businesses in United Kingdom are unlikely to be prosecuted for ransom payments to ransomware gangs - unless there is a reasonable possibility that the payment amount could be used to finance terrorism. But at least a large number of people in industry believes that it should be much more difficult or even illegal to pay the ransom.
Speaking earlier this month at the security think tank RUSI, the former head of the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), Ciaran Martin explained how big a problem ransomware is.
Martin said that if he had the opportunity to play "one political card next year", he would ask for a "serious consideration of whether the law to make it illegal for organizations in the UK to pay the ransom in case they fall victim to ransomware. "
Martin said it was strange that blackmail laws in the UK were based in large part on the experience of kidnapping by terrorists. groups. That is, if you are being blackmailed by a terrorist group, it is illegal to pay, but if the attackers are mere criminals or even state attackers, then it is okay. "Surely this is strange and needs change," he said.
It is believed that up to half of the organizations will pay the ransom when hit by ransomware, which has made malicious data encryption software a major source of revenue for sophisticated criminal gangs. Some publications ransomware have earned tens of millions in ransom, usually in the form of cryptocurrencies that are difficult to detect such as Bitcoin.
Many victims believe that they have no choice but to pay if their alternative is to effectively rebuild all their computer systems and databases from scratch.
However, another issue is that business costs are rising as it is almost a given that they have to invest in costly systems security that will prevent such attacks.
If the ransom payment was a criminal error, companies would have to make sure that the systems they were strong enough to stop the attackers. But it would also put a lot more pressure on police to locate the gangs.