Why Do So Many Companies Use Professional Ransomware Response Services?

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By Jeff Stout, freelance writer.

Opening up the office after a long weekend, employees notice that something is wrong as they try to power on their computers. The desktop background has disappeared, and is replaced with a ransom note. All of the data is encrypted, and work grinds to a halt.

This is a stressful, but increasingly common, scenario. Ransomware is snowballing into an ever-bigger problem. As more companies buckle under pressure and pay ransoms to hackers, cybercriminals are reinvesting their profits into expanding their operations, and growing more dangerous by the day.

With this expanded capacity, even the most well secure networks are not 100% secure. With ransomware variants like Lockbit 2.0, Ryuk, and Conti, zero-day exploits are relatively common, meaning that in some cases, there is very little that can be done to prevent a network breach.

So when a company is faced with a catastrophic ransomware attack, what do they do? Unfortunately, many companies don’t have a plan for such situations, leaving decision makers in a panic where it’s easy to make bad decisions.

At this point, it makes sense for many ransomware victims to go to a professional ransomware response service.

Advantages of Professional Ransomware Response

Although ransomware response is covered by most cyber insurance policies, the cost usually runs into the thousands of dollars, which begs the question— is it really worth it? It depends on the situation. Considering a few factors can help to understand when professional ransomware response services are appropriate.

Experienced Negotiators

A ransomware attack is an extremely stressful situation. Clients, partners, investors, management and employees are all left hanging, and in many cases a company is hemhorraging cash by the minute. Cybercriminals are very aware of this situation, and will often try to take advantage of a victim’s vulnerability to extract more cash from them.

This pressure often takes the form of threatening to double the ransom if not paid within a certain amount of time (ie. 48 hours) or making threats to delete all the data if the victim goes to the police.

An experienced negotiator can call a hacker’s bluff, and typically understand what kind of a ransom they will accept much better. The best ransomware response teams keep records on the behavior of different ransomware gangs, so they know what to expect, and how to negotiate the ransom as low as possible.

Data Recovery

Decrypting data held hostage by ransomware gangs is usually fairly straightforward, but there can be complications. Some critical mistakes can lead to damage or loss of data during decryption, so companies without dedicated IT staff sometimes prefer to work with experts experienced in data recovery.

Fast Payment Settlement

Hackers almost always demand ransoms in the form of a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Many companies don’t have much experience with cryptocurrency, and don’t have funds available to pay the sum demanded.

Purchasing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies can be a somewhat complex process requiring identity and bank account verification, registration and payment confirmation delays. Some of the quick-buy methods, like purchasing with debit or credit cards, come with fees of as high as five or even ten percent.

When it comes to paying a million dollar ransom, for example, this means the fees for purchasing Bitcoin alone could reach six figures. In some cases, there are also daily purchase limits, which can delay the process even more.

Professional ransomware recovery services keep reserves of Bitcoin on hand, and can quickly and securely make payments. When downtime is costing a company thousands of dollars an hour, being able to make a payment quickly can make a huge difference.

Better Security

If there is no choice except paying the ransom, there’s a few things to watch out for. In many countries, there are certain rules and regulations about sending payments, so it’s important to make sure that sending the ransom is fully legal.

It’s also important to be aware that there are a lot of scammers out there. Some ransomware gangs will take a payment without providing a decryption key. Competent ransomware response professionals maintain detailed case files about different ransomware gangs, both to negotiate more effectively, but also to keep track of the behavior of different groups and respond accordingly.

Digital Forensics

One of the main concerns in the aftermath of a ransomware attack is making sure it doesn’t happen again. After recovering your data, a good ransomware response service will analyze your system and determine how and why your cybersecurity failed, and make detailed recommendations to avoid future attacks.

Insurance Documentation

In the aftermath of a ransomware attack, an organization’s entire staff is usually overwhelmed with trying to do damage control and catch up with backlogs of work. Many companies have cyber insurance policies, but filling out a claim can be challenging at these times.

Ransomware recovery experts know everything that is needed for a successful claim, and not only can they fill out a complete incident report and handle communications with law enforcement, they can also collect all of the relevant data needed for an insurance claim.

In some cases, budgets can get tight in the aftermath of a ransomware attack, so it can be a big boon to get reimbursed for damages as quickly as possible.

Is it Right For You?

Ethically speaking, the best option when it comes to ransomware is to simply not pay. Paying encourages the hackers and increases their capacity to do harm to others. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of taking the moral high road, and in many cases how to deal with a ransomware attack is primarily an economic decision.

Outsourcing ransomware response to a specialized service makes economic sense in any scenario where the amount of money lost through additional downtime would be greater than the cost of hiring the ransomware response service to handle recovery.

If a company has employees who are tech savvy have the luxury of time to research the different aspects of ransomware response and fill out paperwork, most of the work that ransomware response experts do can be done in-house.

However, this does entail some additional risks; for example, it’s important to make sure to comply with all relevant data breach regulations, and failure to do so can result in hefty fines. Many companies don’t have the time, or want to keep their employees busy with other, higher productivity activities. In such cases, professional ransomware response is probably the way to go.

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