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Lead Image © aphaspirit and Brian Guest, 123RF.com

Feeding Seagulls Is Wrong


Article from ADMIN 40/2017
"Please do not feed the seagulls" is good advice, and I'm not really talking about seagulls.

"Please do not feed the seagulls" is good advice, and I'm not really talking about seagulls.

I've heard and read all sorts of reasons for not feeding seagulls. From spreading diseases to overpopulation to developing a dependence on humans for food – I've heard it all. To me, the most logical reason not to feed seagulls is that they don't stop at a simple snack; they come back for seconds, thirds, or even more. Once you reward a seagull for basically just being a seagull, you've started a chain reaction that now places the seagull into the awkward position of annoyingly begging you again for what you gave so freely at first. OK, so I'm not really talking about seagulls, here, nor am I talking about feeding them bits of bread or Cheetos. I'm referring to paying ransom to ransomware writers and perpetrators. Allow me to explain.

Ransomware is vile and disgusting. It is the lowest form of malware. Encrypting a victim's files and then demanding money to unencrypt them is just incomprehensible to me. To deny someone access to pictures of their children, even if there are pictures of those children feeding seagulls, is despicable. Furthermore, the blackmailers are too cowardly to accept payment in cash or in person. Instead, they demand their ransom to be paid in Bitcoin – the "currency" of illegal global trade.

I know several people who've paid ransom. I know others who've refused and just dealt with their losses. Still others have been patient and found solutions online that decrypt their files without paying one red cent or even one imaginary e-blip to a cyber blackmailer.

My advice is to not pay the ransom. By paying, you're rewarding these blackmailers for doing something evil, disgusting, and illegal, and it makes them come back for more. Plus, who's to say that once you go to the trouble of acquiring Bitcoin and paying the ransom you'll get the code to decrypt your file? A hosting company is South Korea recently paid a record $1 million ransom to recover its customers' files. The company should not have paid. What motivation do the criminals have now to stop holding people's files for ransom? None. They've been rewarded for being evil. They've been rewarded for being criminals. And they're not going to stop.

It's hard for me to believe that in 2017 we're still bending to the will of criminals and rewarding their bad behaviors. If we take away the reward, then they'll stop perpetrating these types of scams.

Everyone is great at giving advice and now you can add my five tips to the mix:

1. Back up your data and your valuable files.

2. Separate your backup from your computer once the backup is complete.

3. Don't click on executables in email messages.

4. Don't Panic.

5. Never pay a ransom.

I know that it's human nature to panic in the face of having your computer invaded by ransomware, but you must remain calm. I also know that it's easier to say than do. If my computer contracted ransomware, I'd probably panic and be angry, too. The only thing I would never do is pay the ransom, and I do have pictures of the kids feeding seagulls.

However, I've learned my lesson over the years. When you feed the seagulls, they pester you for hours. They gang up on you when you're feeding them. Often, a few brave ones will become impatient and dive for the source of the free treats. Numerous stories describe instances in which a single victim was ganged up on by ransomware criminals, but you have no guarantees if you pay. Well, the only guarantee is that they'll keep coming back – maybe not to you, but they'll keep attacking and extracting money from other victims. Let's take away their ill-gotten treats and make them work a legitimate job, just like the seagulls at the beach.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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