For the past six years, a free project has helped ransomware victims to avoid paying criminals or suffering prolonged recovery times. Today marks the sixth anniversary of Europol’s No More Ransom initiative.

During the last decade, the threat of ransomware has ratcheted steadily upwards. Criminals are targeting organisations of all sizes across various industries, crippling them with infections that cut off access to the data they needed. In July 2016, the Dutch National Police, Europol, Intel Security and Kaspersky Lab decided to act, by launching

This non-commercial site provided access to the decryption keys that police forces had recovered during earlier investigations. Sharing those keys free of charge was a vital lifeline for many organisations that might otherwise have lost hope of accessing their data again.

Since then, the portal has grown to become a valuable resource for victims of ransomware. To mark this year’s anniversary, Europol released figures to show that the site helped more than 1.5 million victims get their essential files back without needing to pay ransom to criminals. As of today, No More Ransom has 136 free decryption tools for 165 variants of ransomware including Gandcrab, REvil/Sodinokibi, Maze/Egregor/Sekhmet and more.

From the beginning, the portal also aimed to educate the public about ransomware and how to avoid the threat. (Remember, this was a year before the double whammy of WannaCry and NotPetya variants, and five years before the HSE’s high-profile ransomware incident.)

The key to cracking ransomware

Over the years, as the number of organisations taking part has expanded, the repository of known keys has grown. More than 188 partners from the public and private sector are part of the project. BH Consulting was among the first group of private sector cybersecurity companies to get involved back in 2016. In 2017, we published a guide to dealing with ransomware and updated it in 2020 to reflect how the threat had adapted. It’s available free to download from our white papers section of the site.

For years, we’ve encouraged all victims of cybercrime to report to law enforcement so the agencies can gather intelligence, share information, understand threats better, and develop responses. No More Ransom is one end result of this approach in action: it’s a practical resource that’s proven to work. It should be one of the first stops that anyone dealing with a ransomware attack should consider engaging with. During several investigations that BH Consulting has been involved with victims of ransomware attacks we’ve regularly called upon No More Ransom’s resource of free keys to help victims recover their systems.

Europol is marking the anniversary through its social media accounts, and you can find more information through the hashtags #NoMoreRansom #DontPay.

In the spirit of information sharing that started the No More Ransom project, here are six tips to avoid falling victim to ransomware:

  • Back up your most important information (and keep a copy offline if possible)
  • Use robust security products from providers you trust
  • Keep all the software and operating systems you use up to date
  • Segment your network to stop potential infections from spreading rapidly
  • Use two-factor authentication to protect vital data
  • Watch out for suspicious messages, emails and links.

Brian Honan is founder and CEO of BH Consulting

About the Author: Amy Biddulph

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