FBI: we don’t advise entities to pay ransom demands

While I was at the recent PHI Protection Network conference, I had an opportunity to speak with Ben Stone, Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI’s Pennsylvania Cyber Squad. One of the questions I put to him was why the FBI had been advising companies to pay ransomware demands.

Special Agent Stone told me that that wasn’t the FBI’s official position and that officially, the FBI cannot advise entities one way or the other as to whether to pay a ransom demand. All they can do, in some cases, he told me, is explain that the FBI cannot help them unlock their files if the FBI doesn’t have the means to do so.

Today, Catalin Cimpanu has more on this issue and the FBI’s official position. Their statement was in response to an inquiry sent in December by Senator Ron Wyden, who was apparently reacting to the same news reports I was.

Donald J. Good, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, apparently answered this letter at the start of February.

Responding the most pressing issue, Mr. Good said the following: “The FBI does not advise victims on whether or not to pay the ransom.”

“The FBI advises that the use of backup files is an effective way to minimize the impact of ransomware and that implementing computer security best practices is the most effective way to prevent ransomware infections,” Mr. Good also add.

“Individuals or businesses that regularly backup their files on an external server or device can scrub their hard drive to remove the ransomware and restore their files from backup. If all individuals and businesses backed up their files, ransomware would not be a profitable business for cyber criminal actors.”

“If none of these precautions have been taken and the individual or business still wants to recover their files, the victim’s remaining alternative is to pay the ransom,” Mr. Good states, emphasizing that it’s not the agency’s custom to push victims towards paying the ransom, but the victim’s choice alone.

You can read the full letter on Softpedia.

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