Police warns companies not to pay cyber ransoms

Cyber crime posted within binary code

Police have warned companies not to pay hackers if they demand a ransom, after criminals threatened the child of a senior employee at an Australian company.

The company in question complied with the hacking group's request to pay out thousands of dollars after its systems were hacked and sensitive data was stolen.

When the company paid the ransom, the hackers changed their minds and began threatening a senior employee at the company and their family.

Police said the hackers: "profiled a senior member of the organisation, identified their family and threatened to discredit members of his family through online attacks particularly targeting a child."

Acting assistant commissioner Brian Hay said: "This was a very serious attack on an organisation and quite traumatic for the business, the victim and his family. We are strongly urging business to ensure their computer systems are secure and protected from hackers, that they adopt a policy of not paying ransom demands and carefully consider the information posted on social media."

The warning comes at the same time as a security researcher at Check Point uncovered a new decryption ransomware threat. Natalia Kolesova said the scam, called Troldesh, involves a hacker encrypting a victim's files, forcing them to pay a fee for the files to be subsequently decrypted. While investigating the threat, Kolesova was able to bargain with the hacker to get a discount on the ransom.

However, even this can be dangerous for enterprises to get into. Hays advised organisations to put protocols in place in order to deal with incidents should they occur in the first place: "Organisations need to think about putting in place a strategy to counteract or respond to these types of incidents. But the one message that I cannot stress enough is to never comply with extortion demands and report these matters to us immediately."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.