Ransomware

Stockpiling bitcoin to pay hacking ransoms is a highly dangerous game to play

Recent research has shown that a third of UK firms are stockpiling digital currencies such as bitcoin, in order to pay hackers to release their data in the event of a ransomware attack. This is an extremely dangerous course of action if it comes at the expense of preventative security measures, and increases the likelihood of severe consequences as a result of a data breach.

The research polled 250 IT security specialists at large companies across the UK. In addition to the figure on cryptocurrency stockpiling, 35 per cent of businesses with over 2,000 employees would be willing to pay over £50,000 to regain access to compromised data. While these figures are indicative of the high value organisations are placing on their data, building a cyber security strategy around the expectation of having to make ransom payments should never take precedence over working to prevent data breaches from happening in the first place.

These figures can be considered a sign of the times: hackers are reaching never-before-seen levels of expertise, and no target can be considered too big for cyber criminals any more. While stockpiling bitcoin may be an effective emergency strategy for a rainy day, companies that use this as their primary line of defence are playing an extremely dangerous, and potentially costly, game.

In support of this point, the same survey revealed that almost half of firms are failing to back up their data at least once a day, with 13 per cent saying they have never serialised their backup data files. This points to a serious lack of focus on developing watertight, preventative cybersecurity strategies.

What is clear from this research is that companies are still not doing enough to prevent hackers from infiltrating their systems. If a cybercriminal manages to inflict a data breach, there will inevitably be serious consequences for the affected business, whether or not you have the funds to pay the ransom. Reputations will be damaged, and the financial outlay required to build up a cryptocurrency stockpile means valuable funds are used up, when they could be allocated more effectively elsewhere.

It is crucial that organisations do not lose sight of a cyber security strategy’s core goal: preventing attackers from breaching a company’s security in the first place.

If businesses focused more readily on protecting their own systems, networks and applications, the need to stockpile bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies would be severely reduced. Software that can provide exceptional levels of protection is now widely available, and is a much more reliable, cost-effective option than waiting for an attack and then trying to negotiate with a hacker. It’s time organisations stopped gambling with cyber security, and focused on adequate protection rather than paying ransoms.