Should he succumb to digital blackmail?

Cybercriminals corner companies in both the public and private sectors, forcing them to pay ransom in order to earn large amounts of money illegally. What needs to be done regarding the increasing digital blackmail has been reviewed by cyber security experts, including legal regulations.

The WannaCry attack in 2017 still remains in the minds of company executives and IT professionals. In the attack, the UK’s National Health Service took a significant hit in terms of infrastructure, and the cost of rebuilding the infrastructure was announced as 120 million US dollars. In 2018, SamSam ransomware attacked the smart city server infrastructure in Atalanta, America, and cybercriminals demanded $51,000. It took several years to rebuild the systems after the attack, costing between 11 million and 17 million US dollars. More recently, the Colonial Pipeline company has been the target of cybercriminals.  

There are various reasons why companies exposed to the attack pay the ransom. ESET experts state that companies that pay the ransom demanded by cybercriminals resort to this method because they think that the cost of not paying the ransom may be higher. So is this true? 

Whether there is a legal basis for paying the ransom is a matter of debate. Also, according to a study by Cybereason, almost half of the companies that pay the ransom are unable to regain access to all of their critical data, even after receiving the decryption key. There is no guarantee that the attack will not be repeated or that the ransom will work because, according to research, 80 percent of companies that pay the ransom will be attacked again later. 46 percent of companies believe this attack was carried out by the same person. As the data shows that paying the ransom leads to further attacks, experts say banning the first payment will significantly impede cybercriminals’ opportunities to make money.  

Legislation needs to be made

Behaving ethically, not paying ransom demands and not supporting cybercriminals also means not funding criminal activity. Therefore, it is correct to consider it illegal to fund cybercriminals and to make legal arrangements to prevent these payments. Countries that are the first to implement regulations prohibiting these payments will be in an advantageous position. If regulations are made in a country or region that prohibit companies or organizations from paying for ransomware, cybercriminals will tailor their business accordingly and intensify their campaigns in countries without these regulations. 

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