What would you do if your files were taken hostage?
Imagine one day that you open an email that looks like it came from Google and it invites you to click on something. You click and some mysterious file downloads to your device and launches while the files turn into white paper icons and you can't read at all. This means that you are a victim of a ransomware attack.
This is defined as a type of malware which can prevent or limit the users from accessing the device that they own and store their data on unless they pay a ransom. This may be a new term for you but ransomwares happen fairly often. The volume of the attacks grows by a lot every month or every year, so it's a big problem.
So, what do you do then?
Do you pay for the ransom or just wait for the countdown to end? Of course, some people find it better to look up a free decryption tool online in case that they can decrypt their files on their own. But, the chances of success here are extremely low and most likely, no software will be able to help you with this.
Even if a solution to the process for the previous attack is now available, people behind the ransomware attacks develop quickly and they can already have something new and unbeatable. They learn from their mistakes and use even more advanced schemes every time.
You might consider calling the police or any law enforcement agency. However, even the FBI can't do much to resolve each specific incident. However, reporting might put the criminals on the radar so that the FBI can work on a solution or catch them. Most of the time, it's a clear choice – you pay or you don't.
This will largely depend on how much you value what you have on your device. They usually ask for payment in bitcoin and one bitcoin costs $9.977. It can be a lot if you don't have anything too valuable on your device but then again, if you have something of extreme value it might be worth it.
So, what happens if you pay?
The first possible outcome is that you get your files back. You may feel safe and like you should celebrate but the thing is that the criminals have a reason to celebrate as well. Not only did they just get a lot of money from you but they also found their new paying customer who will pay every time. They will probably attack again. The second possibility after you pay is that you don't get your files back. The thing here is that you have no leverage as no one is forcing the criminals to give you your files back. Even if they do give them back, they might mess with them along the way. You may also decide not to pay – the price tag may be too high or you think that they are bluffing.
And what happens if you don't pay?
For one, you may get a time extension and a price change. Sometimes they will give you a price increase because you didn't pay by the deadline. Others decide to give you a price decrease because they see that you won't pay. They will atempt to get at least something. In both cases, you go back to deciding.
The second outcome is that you simply don't get your files back. This is positive because the criminals won't atempt to attack you again and you will not be contributing to one of the biggest crimes of the digital age. But then again, you lose your files. It all comes down to how much you value your data. If you don't have anything important on your device, you will most likely not pay anything.
If you have important data on your computer or device, you will pay – but the amount you are willing to give will depend again, on how valuable the things on your device are. Keep in mind that you should also be aware of precautions that you can take. Back up your data frequently and be aware of phishing because it can really damage you.
So, be careful when checking your email and avoid clicking links whenever you can. As soon as you see something suspicious, delete it.
A marketing and technical writer at Oxessays.com and Stateofwriting.com, Ellie Coverdale has been a part of many high scale tech research initiatives. She has learned many valuable lessons and gained a lot of practical experience through these projects. Coverdale is also a writing teacher at Boomessays.com.