Ransomware: Why You Should Never Pay

Many recent ransomware attacks have caused huge disturbances, including the infamous WannaCry attack, Petya ransomware, and the most recent SamSam ransomware. “Ransomware” is an umbrella term for a group of  viruses that encrypt files of innocent people, businesses, and major corporations. Unsuspecting victims are told they can retrieve important documents by paying a “ransom,” hence the name. The FBI has released a statement letting people know that you shouldn’t fall for the “ransomware extortionists.” Unfortunately, every single day, there are cybercriminals literally profiting off of your sadness.

Here’s the catch.

Paying the ransom first and waiting to be sent the decryption key doesn’t leave much incentive for the hackers to follow through. Of course this doesn’t mean it could NEVER happen, but the chances are very slim. Plus, sending money opens up the pathway to your financial information. It’s best to never send money.

In the case of WannaCry, the hackers designed the payment system so badly that they had no way of knowing exactly who paid and, therefore, who to send the decryption key to. This is a strong indication that they had no intention of respecting their side of the bargain in the first place. As for the Petya ransom, the email associated with the payment system was suspended by its providers who didn’t want to be part of criminal activity. Even if they wanted to, people had no way to send money to the extortionists in order to get a decryption key.

Where does the money go?

As cybercriminals are getting organized and going global, the money could go anywhere – fueling other criminal activities.

If you pay, you risk another attack.

If somebody paid once, it’s likely they will do it again, and again, and again. It might be something other than ransomware as well; identity theft or the classic technical support scam. A lot of cybercriminal gangs are linked, meaning a large group of them could directly target you.

Just keep in mind that hackers don’t care about your files, your precious memories, your moral status, or your dignity. To put it bluntly, they don’t care about anyone at all – all they want is that extra cash.

How to avoid a ransomware attack:

  • Run a routine FixMeStick scan.
  • Run McAfee while working on your device.
  • Update your operating system, anti-virus software, and FixMeStick. Updates provide patches and newly improved protection. If you missed a Windows update, click here.
  • Backup your files, just in case.
  • Don’t send unknown people money.
  • Don’t open email attachments from unknown senders or strange emails. Avoid getting caught in a phishing scam!
  • If you have been infected, seek assistance.