A whopping 59% of employees who have sustained a ransomware attack at work personally paid the extortion money, according to a report released today by Intermedia.
The 2017 Data Vulnerability Report Part 2, a survey of 1,000 office workers at small-to midsized businesses, also found 68% of business owners and executives personally paid ransom payments. The average ransom paid was approximately $1,400, the study notes.
Potential Payment Drivers
"I think employees pay it because it's fast," speculates Jonathan Levine, Intermedia's CTO. "While everyone is trying to figure out the company's policy on paying ransom, the people still need to get the work done."
He believes most employees do not back up their work, and adds it's not surprising a majority of the workers personally paid the ransom.
But Chris Hornick, president-elect of the Northern California Human Resources Association and CEO of HBSC Strategic Services, has a different view on why employees are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars of their own money.
If an employer learns that company equipment is used for non-work related activities, it could be a fireable offense, Hornick says.
For example, if an employee clicks on a bogus email attachment touting details for a free luxurious vacation to the Bahamas and it results in a ransomware attack, the employee may face termination.
"This could be why employees don't want to disclose it and pay the ransom themselves," Hornick says. "It's a double-edged sword because usually employees know their employer wants them to disclose ransomware attacks."
Workforce Ransomware Education
The survey also reports that 70% of respondents say their employer regularly communicates about cyberthreats, and that 69% are familiar with ransomware. However, given that the majority of office workers still pay the ransom themselves, Levine says it suggests companies have not yet taken the extra step to inform employees what to do if they are attacked by ransomware.
"A lot of the security education is around how not to get hit, versus what to do once you get hit," Levine says, adding, "People are bad when it comes to planning for low-probability events, even catastrophic ones."
Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents note their employers paid the ransom. The Intermedia report advises companies to inform workers about the possible dangers of dealing with ransomware attackers directly.
The report also advises creating an environment where employees realize there is no shame in becoming a ransomware victim, and that personally paying ransom should never be an option.
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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio