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Exactly half of all Americans who have fallen victim to ransomware have fulfilled the attackers’ demands and paid the ransom.

This is just one of the findings of Ransomware. A Victim’s Perspective: A study on US and European Internet Users (PDF), a report conducted by Bitdefender in November of last year.

For its study, the security firm spoke with just over 3,000 web users located in the United States, France, Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Romania in an attempt to understand how a victim of crypto-ransomware responds to an infection session.

Bitdefender found that more than a fifth (21.21 percent) of all phishing emails laced with crypto-ransomware target the United States, making Americans the most sought-after targets for malware sample like Cryptolocker2 and CryptoWall 4.0.

This might explain why half of U.S. respondents answered that they have paid the ransom, whereas 40 percent said they would meet the attackers’ demands were their files to be encrypted.

bitdefender ransomware
Source: Bitdefender

Overall, 50 percent of respondents everywhere said that they would pay for the return of their files. The British were willing to pay the most at $568 per each infection session, the study found.

When they were willing to pay, respondents said they were interested in recovering their personal documents first and foremost, Bitdefender determined, followed by personal photos and job-related documents.

Last year, the FBI stated that paying the ransom was sometimes the easiest way for a victim to regain access to their files.

This sentiment notwithstanding, payment in no way guarantees that the attackers will cooperate and provide victims with a decryption key. (This assumes that the encryption process works properly and that coding errors have not already rendered a victim’s files irretrievable.)

“The ransomware phenomenon has been hitting internet users and generating huge profit for cyber-criminals for years,” Catalin Cosoi, chief security strategist at Bitdefender, told SCMagazine. “While victims are usually inclined to pay the ransom, we encourage them not to engage in such actions as it only serves to financially support the malware’s developers.”

With that in mind, it is important that users regularly back up their data. These backups could help a victim recover from a ransomware attack without requiring them to pay the ransom fee.

For more information on how you can respond to and even prevent a ransomware infection, please click here.

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  • Flakk

    Astonishing. $568 is far more than the cost of a two portable hard drives and a copy of a bare-metal imaging product like Acronis. Schedule weekly image backups of your personal computer to be written to a portable hard drive. Disconnect the drive after use. Alternate your weekly backups between the two drives. If your machine is compromised by ransomware, restore your machine from the most recent backup. At most, you’ll lose two weeks of data. That is usually not a catastrophe for the average personal computer user.

    An even cheaper method would be to store your data in the cloud using a free or low-cost service like Box, Google Drive, or OneDrive. If you get hit by ransomware, you’ll have to manually reload your machine, but you won’t lose any important data.

    • Coyote

      It is worth reminding people that a backup that doesn’t work is useless; not only do you have to backup (daily!) but also you have to regularly test it. And secure backups are obviously important (no point in having a backup if you can’t verify it – including whether it works).

      But then you might want to add that a weekly backup isn’t nearly as sufficient – and even if files are backed up you shouldn’t only backup files that have e.g. changed or are new (I refer to incremental, differential, full and other levels of backup).

      And remote backups are only as useful as you have access to them – and only as redundant. Yes it might be of use to some but you shouldn’t rely on them primarily – or their security (or lack thereof).

      But yes I agree and your suggestions would be much better than what most people do. Problem is: lack of awareness and being careless. And even those who know they should backup don’t always do it. This is why automatic backups are the safest and smartest way (you can still backup manually but in addition to and not in place of). It’s also the only way to make sure it gets done.

  • effinayright

    The perfect solution to this situation would be to enlist the Mossad to find these thieves, burst into their lairs emptying their Uzis into them, take close-up pics displaying the perps’ brain matter sprayed all other their monitors and with their dics in their mouths, and publish it all on the ‘net.

    Pour encourager les autres…

    • Anaylisit101

      Quiet disgusting dontcha think?! :O

    • Coyote

      Such words are words of the ignorant. Not only the ignorant but the unethical ignorant with no moral compass. You think it is okay to murder people for theft, do you? I won’t even bring up some rather twisted irony with your suggestion (irony which you won’t see because anyone like you would be blind to it). Only fools would believe that killing people is a deterrent. It never has been and it never will be. Those with this mindset haven’t been around very long – no matter what the legal implications are this type of thing will still happen (with computers and without). For the record: China executed people for computer crime many years ago!

      Besides that: these people are only making a profit off of HUMAN STUPIDITY. True they don’t care about anyone but themselves (if themselves) but we all need money or some bartering method. The problem is people not caring enough about their own data (and more generally assets), people not learning from their mistakes (or the mistakes of others) and sheer laziness. Too many people are like this and it is part of human stupidity. Since human stupidity is so widespread it is actually quite smart to make a profit off of it – at least if you lack ethics and a moral compass. Perhaps you should consider it yourself? Ah, right, I see the problem there.

  • Coyote

    ‘This might explain why half of U.S. respondents answered that they have paid the ransom,’

    Or it might be that Americans are targeted for other reasons… Similarly, it might be that they are more likely to pay for different reasons.

    And I leave those statements deliberately ambiguous.