Ransomware: How much would you pay to get your files back?

Malware that encrypts files and only releases them after a fee has been paid to cyber criminals is on the rise.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

If you were hit with ransomware would you pay up or would you tell the cyber criminals to take a hike? Would it make a difference where you were - home or in the office?

According to a survey the answer may well depend on where you were when the demand was being made. It would also vary a lot on how much money was involved.

Ransomware works in the way the name suggests: users have their files encrypted by cyber criminals, usually thanks to a virus. Under the threat of seeing personal or sensitive data locked forever, or posted on the web, victims are pressured into paying a fee to have it unencrypted again.

Research by security company Bitdefender found that nearly half -- 44 per cent -- of all ransomware victims in the UK have paid to regain access to their data: and 39 per cent of victims found it probable or very probable that they will be attacked again in the future. The research revealed that victims are willing to pay up to £400 to recover their encrypted info.

Willingness to pay varies somewhat by location: in the US more than 50 percent of ransomware victims have actually paid up. In Romania the blackmailers were seen as a threat by 48: more sceptical are those Germany and Denmark where 33 percent and 14 percent, respectively, would pay the demands.

But what you'll pay out for varies too: for instance, 18 percent of UK respondents would pay for personal documents, 17 percent for personal photos - and only 10 percent for job-related documents.

Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender said the ransomware phenomenon has been hitting internet users and generating huge profit for cybercriminals for years. "While victims are usually inclined to pay the ransom, we encourage them not to engage in such actions as it only serves to financially support the malware's developers."

Following best security practices online - and keeping security up to date are both sensible steps, and it seems computer users are waking up to the threat: according to the survey 67 per cent of respondents correctly associated ransomware with a virus and 44 per cent had accurately identified ransomware as a type of threat that prevents or limits access to computer data. Furthermore, almost 34 per cent of respondents had identified the top three most common ransomware infection vectors as email messages that contain computer viruses, files that contain a virus, and visiting websites that have been hacked. The full report can be found here.

Further Reading:

Online security? Just let me Google that, say puzzled bosses

Mandated encryption backdoors? Such a bad idea, says cybersecurity agency

South Korea raises cyber attack warning amid heightened regional tensions

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