Ransomware: The Future is Here

Since the emergence of CryptoLocker we have been helping victims of various forms of ransomware, sometimes with services, mostly just with advice. It was opined at the time that ransomware was the future of malware, and that seems to have come true. And why not? Done properly and by “professionals,” ransomware is lucrative for the perpetrators, and while not painless for the victims, not fatal to their data if they react in time. While not all ransomware is created equal, if bad things are going to happen to good people, you could do worse than be hit with something like Cryptowall.

Unfortunately, bad-news and slightly-less-bad-news is not a scenario people like to deal with.

“You’re computer security experts, can’t you fix this?”

In the immortal words of Star Trek's Dr. McCoy: We’re doctors, not miracle workers.

“How can you advocate paying the ransom? That’s just encouraging bad behavior!”

That’s a refrain uttered by people sitting on a high horse whose livelihoods are not in jeopardy. On the scale of distasteful things, paying a ransom for your business-critical files is not exactly negotiating with terrorists. You have to make a business decision. An un-emotional, cold, calculated business decision. The ransom is the cheapest way to get your data back – and the cheapest lesson you can learn about the importance of a good backup scheme.

Having said that, paying the ransom is not the ONLY way to get your data back IF and ONLY IF the ransomware didn't fully or properly execute.  In that case there is a slim hope, and just how much hope is something that can be determined in a few hours (anyone telling you it’ll take longer likely has a boat payment due). Again though: it will cost more than paying the ransom, and what is recovered might be a fraction of what actually is lost.

I don’t like telling people to give in to data-nappers, but this isn't a kidnapping like the movies or TV. The FBI is not going to rush to your house and set up a wiretap and stake out the ransom drop-off point. I’m sure the FBI is working to catch the people behind various forms of ransomware, but they’re working in a fashion and at a scale that is beyond any individual victim. You are not without options, but this is a hard call you have to make yourself.

Welcome to the future.