The world could rid itself of ransomware overnight if we, as a society, could collectively agree to stop paying ransom. If there was a 100% certainty that they would not get paid, attackers would simply shift their attention elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is people do pay criminals to release their critical data. According to a new survey, 52% would pay up if their computer were taken hostage by ransomware. Why is this?
It is, for the most part, because criminals will release data if paid. They understand that the continued success of ransomware relies entirely on quid pro quo. If they stop upholding their end of the bargain, there is no incentive for victims to pay them. If I know my data is lost forever, why would I add insult to injury by handing over Bitcoins? It is in the criminals’ best interest that they follow through, and they understand this. But just as the criminals have learned that quid pro quo will help ransomware live in perpetuity, businesses and consumers must also adopt their own underlying principle: STOP PAYING RANSOM!
By collectively withholding payment we can extinguish the threat forever. I am not alone in this belief. According to nomoreransomeware.org, “Paying the ransom is never recommended, mainly because it does not guarantee a solution to the problem. There are also a number of issues that can go wrong accidentally. For example, there could be bugs in the malware that makes the encrypted data unrecoverable even with the right key. In addition, if the ransom is paid, it proves to the cybercriminals that ransomware is effective. As a result, cybercriminals will continue their activity and look for new ways to exploit systems that result in more infections and more money on their accounts.”
Although it may seem unrealistic to think the world’s population could agree to shut off the Bitcoin valve, it is a worthy goal, and one we should strive to achieve. In the meantime, businesses and individuals should arm themselves with the latest security technologies. With revolutionary new ways to protect ourselves, and a mind toward depriving criminals of their valuable Bitcoins, together we can bring this threat to an end.