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HONEST Poll Results: When Should You Pay the Ransom?

When ransomware hits, when should you just pay up? The Security Now community has spoken.

Ransomware has captured the imagination of executives and IT professionals even though, taken in the context of all security issues, it's not really at the top of the list. Unless, of course, you're the one staring at a screen demanding a ransom payment in order to get your data back.

If you do see such a screen, do you pay the ransom or not? That's the question we asked in our most recent poll and the answers provided by our community were decisive. Half of the total taking the poll said that "Never!" is the only right answer when it comes to when a ransom should be paid. Another quarter said that paying up is a last resort, while 16% got judgmental, saying that paying a ransom is an admission that your backup and recover plans aren't what they should be.

As always, we recognize the limitations of our methods. We understand that the polls we conduct here on our pages aren't going to fuel academic research. That's why it's important that we properly label the conclusions. I think it's accurate to call them a Highly Opinionated, Not Especially Scientific Tally -- or, as I like to think of them: HONEST results.

Security Now community member Joe Stanganelli explained his "last resort" vote: "Game theory dictates that you never pay a blackmailer because there's nothing to prevent the blackmailer from blackmailing you again." That's a sentiment explained in more detail in Carl Herberger's recent article here at Security Now.

Herberger pointed out, "paying a ransom provides no safe harbor." He recognized, though, that business considerations often win out over principle when it comes to ransomware. "When facing a ransom attack, many companies must weigh the cost of paying the fee against the cost of downtime or a leak. The decision is not easy because ... paying a ransom just proves that a business is willing to pay."

So what is the "wisdom of the crowd" when it comes to paying a ransom? Stated simply, it's this: Never, ever pay a ransom -- unless you have to.

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— Curtis Franklin is the editor of SecurityNow.com. Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.

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About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin, Principal Analyst, Omdia

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Principal Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Previously, he was senior editor of Dark Reading, editor of Light Reading's Security Now, and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek, where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications including BYTE, ComputerWorld, CEO, Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most recent books, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, and Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, are published by Taylor and Francis.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in running, amateur radio (KG4GWA), the MakerFX maker space in Orlando, FL, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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