It is the most divisive question you can ask security experts: Should paying off a protection fee ever be included in your portfolio of potential responses to extortionists. Even those experts who thought paying should be an option didn't like to admit it. Others said it's asking to be extorted again. The worst possible response is to pay when you have no control over the situation. In that caseand experts have watched this happenthe extortionists simply take the money and keep attacking you."It irritates the hell out of me that I would have to think about paying, and it makes my skin crawl, but I would say you'd have to have that option in your back pocket," says Ira Winkler, president of Internet Security Advisors Group. "If you're unprepared and they're ready to inflict a significant amount of damage, you have to consider it.""Paying off is buying time; that's it," says Bob Weaver, former Department of Homeland Security deputy director and now part of consultancy Stroz Friedberg. "You'd better reconcile with the business that you're shaking hands with the devil. You'd better bring in law enforcement. Better yet, have a preexisting relationship. Because all paying will do is maybe reduce the risk for a while. It does nothing to get rid of the risk." -S.B.