Paying ransom should be a last ditch resort. Why? First, there is no guarantee that the extortionists will unlock your files even after you have paid. Second, paying further emboldens criminals and would-be criminals to conduct ransomware attacks.
However, let's walk through bitcoin's background and how you can obtain it. In the event of a ransomware attack, most cyber criminals behind demand payment in the form of bitcoin to release your files.
Bitcoin, introduced in 2008, is a digital asset and payment system, which the U.S. Treasury categorizes as a decentralized virtual currency. Because it masks user identity, bitcoin has also been called the first “cryptocurrency”. Bitcoins can be exchanged for other currencies, products and services.
Typically, bitcoins are purchased through a bitcoin exchange. Bitcoins can be purchased with cash, check, wire transfer, debit card, or credit card. There are a wide variety of bitcoin exchanges to choose from, depending on the currency you are using. To use a bitcoin exchange you must create a profile, however, your identity is kept private. Bitcoin is a “pseudonymous currency,” which means that funds are tied to a bitcoin address rather than a person or business.
Bitcoins are stored in what is known as a “wallet.” There are three varieties of bitcoin wallets available today, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The first, a software wallet, stores bitcoins locally on your computer or mobile device. Another option is to use a web-based wallet service. Finally, there are hardware wallets that store bitcoins offline on a small electronic device.
The benefits of the software and web-based wallets are pretty straightforward—they’re easy to use because you can access them directly from your laptop or mobile device. However, they are more susceptible to theft than offline hardware wallets.
While buying bitcoin is a straightforward process, it's far from the preferred solution after a ransomware attack. Instead, you should rely on a multi-pronged approach to ransomware protection. First, awareness is key. Be wary of suspicious emails which ask you to open links or attachments. Second, make sure your software is patched and up-to-date. And, not just your antivirus software, ransomware exploits vulnerabilities in commonly used software, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe apps. Keeping software up-to-date can go a long way to protect against ransomware. Finally, a comprehensive backup and recovery solution is a must to quickly recover files without paying ransom if you're hit. Look for backup and recovery solutions that allow you to roll back your data and applications to a point in time before the attack.