Browse the comments on virtually any story about a ransomware attack and you will almost surely encounter the view that the victim organization could have avoided paying their extortionists if only they’d had proper data backups.
But the ugly truth is there are many non-obvious reasons why victims end up paying even when they have done nearly everything right from a data backup perspective.
This story isn’t about what organizations do in response to cybercriminals holding their data for hostage, which has become something of a best practice among most of the top ransomware crime groups today. Rather, it’s about why victims still pay for a key needed to decrypt their systems even when they have the means to restore everything from backups on their own.
Experts say the biggest reason ransomware targets and/or their insurance providers still pay when they already have reliable backups is that nobody at the victim organization bothered to test in advance how long this data restoration process might take.
“In a lot of cases, companies do have backups, but they never actually tried to restore their network from backups before, so they have no idea how long it’s going to take,” said Fabian Wosar, chief technology officer at Emsisoft. “Suddenly the victim notices they have a couple of petabytes of data to restore over the Internet, and they realize that even with their fast connections it’s going to take three months to download all these backup files. A lot of IT teams never actually make even a back-of-the-napkin calculation of how long it would take them to restore from a data rate perspective.”