Six weeks ago, I wrote about the WannaCry ransomware attack and what you can do to help your clients protect themselves against, or recover from, similar malware attacks.
In that post, I listed 8 tips and suggestions to share with your clients. Many of them — including update your operating systems, back up your files, and install patches — remain valid.
But it’s becoming increasingly clear that my last suggestion — pay the penalty — is now a bad idea.
Why? I’ll explain in a minute. But first a little background.
Ransomware’s wide reach
WannaCry affected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries. It is the largest ransomware attack in history. Yet new malware attacks keep taking place.
Two weeks ago, the Petya ransomware attack hit 12,500 machines in 65 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Russia and the United States. Unlike WannaCry, where a “kill switch” stopped it from spreading, Petya malware attacks keep flaring up.
The Petya authors posted a message on July 4 saying they would offer the private encryption key used in the malware attack in exchange for 100 bitcoin. At current rates, that’s equivalent to more than $250,000.
The major difference between the WannaCry and Petya malware attacks is that the Petya authors didn’t include a “kill switch.” WannaCry’s kill switch helped researchers to minimize the attack’s spread. But with Petya, they didn’t have that advantage.
New attacks likely
Many cybersecurity and insurance experts are bracing for even more ransomware attacks in the future. You should be bracing, too.
Also, new attacks could be very, very costly. Graeme Newman, chief innovation officer at CFC Underwriting — a major European provider of cyber-insurance premiums — recently told Bloomberg News that the price tag for a new attack could reach as high as $2.5 billion. That’s equivalent to the industry’s full year of gross premium income.
“It’s exceptionally likely that we will see an event over the next months that will seriously affect insurers,” Newman said. “It would only need a combination of WannaCry’s wide reach and Petya’s destructive force.”
Don’t pay - here’s why
So why should you and your customers not pay the ransoms?
Mainly because there’s no guarantee the hackers will release your applications and files. So even if you pay your ransom, there’s no way to ensure you’ll be able to regain access to your files.
Plus, as Norton reminds us, paying the ransom only encourages and funds future malware attacks. We don’t want to do that!
So what you must do — now and forever — is to continue educating your clients. Instruct them to be vigilant. Be suspicious. And don’t click on every link!