The topic of paying ransom in cybersecurity attacks is a controversial one, with arguments for and against. This text explores the advantages and disadvantages of paying a ransom, as well as the factors organizations should consider when making this decision.


Organizations that choose to pay a ransom following a cyber-attack often face subsequent attacks. To assist business leaders in determining whether to pay, Lorraine Dryland [1] [2], CISO at First Sentier Investors [1] [2], has developed a quantitative decision-aid model [1] [2]. This model takes into account the technical and business implications of ransomware attacks, including restore time [2], impact scale, client impact, and ethical and legal liabilities [1] [2]. First Sentier executives have agreed upon this model, which will undergo testing in the future. Dusty Miller from Gartner advises that paying a ransom should be a last resort [2], as 80% of those who pay experience subsequent attacks, and there are no guarantees of data recovery or encryption key effectiveness [2].

Paying a ransom can offer advantages and disadvantages. On one hand [3], it can quickly restore access to encrypted data and may be a cost-effective alternative to rebuilding systems and restoring data from backups [3]. It can also prevent attackers from releasing sensitive data and demonstrate a responsible approach to cybersecurity [3]. Additionally, insurance policies may cover ransom payments [3]. However, paying ransoms can perpetuate cybercrime and provide funding for future attacks [3]. There is also no guarantee of complete data recovery, and it may make an organization a target for repeat attacks [3]. Furthermore, paying a ransom may violate laws or regulations. When deciding whether to pay [3], organizations should consider factors such as data sensitivity and criticality, backup quality, the reputation of the ransomware group [3], legal considerations [3], costs of downtime and recovery [3], and the availability of decryption tools [3]. Ultimately, organizations must carefully weigh these factors and make deliberate decisions aligned with their priorities [3], legal obligations [3], and ethical considerations [3].

The decision to pay a ransom to cybercriminals is a complex one. Some experts argue that paying is the best choice [4], as high-level ransomware operators often provide decryption keys in exchange [4]. However, others caution that paying only fuels the cybercrime industry and leads to worse consequences [4]. Ultimately, the decision to pay or not to pay rests with individual businesses [4]. Recent cases [4], such as Colonial Pipeline paying a $4.5 million ransom and the JBS ransomware attack affecting employees, highlight the difficult decisions companies face when critical infrastructure and human lives are at stake [4]. However, experts like Ryan Chapman envision a future where attacks have minimal impact on humans and emotions [4], ultimately eliminating the need to pay ransoms [4].


Paying a ransom in a cybersecurity attack can have significant impacts, both positive and negative. Organizations must carefully consider the potential consequences, weigh the factors involved [3], and make informed decisions aligned with their priorities [3], legal obligations [3], and ethical considerations [3]. Mitigating the need to pay ransoms should be a long-term goal, with advancements in cybersecurity and a focus on minimizing human and emotional impacts.