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A ransomware attack can disrupt a business’s operations and cause significant brand damage. Even with good preparation and cybersecurity hygiene, audit committees and senior management may find themselves in the unenviable position of deciding whether or not to pay the attackers and for how much. This is a morally fraught situation because, even if everything goes smoothly and you receive a decryptor key and restore your data, the fact remains that you are funding criminal activity by paying the hackers.

Ransomware is malware that encrypts files in the targeted system, making them inaccessible. Once infected, it displays a message asking the victim to pay a ransom, typically in cryptocurrency, to retrieve their files. Often, the malware will also delete backup and shadow copies of files to prevent recovery without the attacker’s decryptor key.

Typically, attackers target large companies with complex computer systems packed with security holes that are just waiting to be exploited. Infections can also spread from personal devices infected with phishing attacks that, when clicked, download the ransomware payload to other machines on the network and cloud-based file-sharing platforms.

Today’s thieves don’t need to be technical, as ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) has emerged, allowing them to launch their attacks without developing malware. Additionally, the shift to remote work has allowed employees to comele their personal devices with their company’s work machines, presenting an extra layer of vulnerability. As a result, fewer employees are protected from sophisticated threats and, in turn, the ransomware industry is growing rapidly.