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Tim Culpan

A Rookie Mistake Shows Hackers Aren't All Geniuses

When a ransomware attacker isn’t up to snuff, the damage might be limited.

Not as scary as it looks.

Not as scary as it looks.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

For more than two decades, ransomware attacks have been the bane of corporate IT managers and their CEOs, and a source of much research for cybersecurity professionals. An underground market for hacking and encryption tools has helped such incursions proliferate, but thankfully a recent case shows what we can learn when attackers don’t know what they’re doing. 

Unlike other cyber nuisances, such as viruses, which replicate and cause mayhem, or denial of service attacks, which bring networks to a grinding halt, ransomware is almost impossible to unwind once it’s been deployed successfully. That’s because they use encryption to lock up the files, with a secret decryption key being the only route out.