FBI, This Week: Advocating Against Ransomware Payment Demands

August 22, 2019

The FBI urges victims of ransomware not to pay the ransom to cyber criminals.

Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: The FBI urges victims of ransomware not to pay the ransom to cyber criminals.

Ransomware is a malware that encrypts the technical systems of individuals and businesses, preventing them from accessing the information.

Bad actors demand a ransom in exchange for a decryption key that will purportedly unlock the victim’s data.

Cyber Section Chief Herbert Stapleton says there is no guarantee that when you pay the ransom, you’ll receive the key…

Herbert Stapleton: There was an example where a company paid the ransom, and the bad actors provided a ransomware key, but instead of unlocking that company’s data it, actually erased all that company’s data. These are fairly rare instances, but there is a risk there.

Halpern: Stapleton says another reason is…

Stapleton: It really just encourages and facilitates further criminal activity. They basically will continue to attack as long as it’s profitable for them. So, continuing to contribute to that profitability just encourages more ransomware attempts.

Halpern: Criminals usually demand that ransoms—which can be upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars—are paid using cryptocurrency to add a layer of anonymity.

Stapleton: One of the reasons they can extract such large ransoms is they often target entities whose data is either a critical part of their business or that entity provides critical services, like emergency services. So, a police department is a really good example of that. If a police department can’t access the necessary data and systems that they have, then there is a potential public safety risk. And so, as a result, the criminals have found that, often, these entities are willing to pay high ransoms to get their data back.

Halpern: Instead of paying the ransom, contact your local FBI field office and report it to ic3.gov as soon as possible.

Stapleton: When we get a ransomware complaint, we will respond to that. We will contact the victim company and work with them to determine what the best course of action going forward is.

Halpern: Information about how to prevent becoming a victim of ransomware can be found on fbi.gov. With FBI, This Week, I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau.

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