Ransomware expert Andrew Hay has some advice: If you want to know how to avoid it now and in the future, it helps to study the past.\n\nIn that spirit, Hay, cofounder and CTO at LEO Cyber Security, provided a detailed historical landscape of K&R (kidnap and ransom) in his talk titled \u201cThe Not-so-Probable Future of Ransomware\u201d at SOURCE Boston 2017 on Wednesday.\n\nWhile ransomware holds information rather than people hostage, Hay said the evolution of tactics in the online world, \u201cparallel traditional extortion rackets.\u201d\n\nHe noted that it dates at least back to biblical times \u2013 one version of it was the \u201ckidnapping\u201d of Hebrews to Babylon so they could be enslaved.\n\nBut, as is the case today, those who engaged in K&R balanced risk with reward. There was more risk, but much greater reward in kidnapping someone rich or famous, since their families would have plenty of money to pay ransoms.\n\nIt was done in some cases to finance wars and conquests. In others, it was done in the name of religion \u2013 if the victim converted, he or she would be set free. In others, an exchange of hostages was seen as a guarantee of treaties and agreements.\n\nIn more recent times, Hay said, it has been used by terrorists and criminal organizations to make political statements or to raise money for their causes.\n\nAnd while, since the 1800s, governments have tried to discourage K&R by freezing the assets of victims and prescribing harsh punishments, including death, for those convicted of it, in many cases it had little effect.\n\nIn the 1980s there were as many as 4,000 kidnappings a year in Columbia. Hay said in 2004, Mexico was the \u201ckidnap capital of the world \u2013 no one was immune and there was no trust in the authorities.\u201d\n\nIn Brazil, it became popular to kidnap family members of soccer stars, since the criminals knew they had very deep pockets. \u201cIt still has one of the highest rates in the world,\u201d he said.\n\nAnd in Nigeria, Western oil executives were nicknamed \u201cwhite gold,\u201d since kidnapping them could yield such massive ransoms.\n\nWhen it comes to ransomware, the tactics are similar. The cases most people hear about involve a notice on a computer that files have been encrypted and will be destroyed if a ransom is not paid within a certain time.\n\nBut there are variations that parallel those in the real world. In some cases, the criminals offer to decrypt the files if the victim assists them in infecting two other people. Or, a victim will be given some advance warning \u2013 threatened with encryption if he doesn\u2019t pay.\n\n\u201cYou can negotiate,\u201d Hay said, comparing it to cutting a deal with a collection company. \u201cIf you ask, \u2018What will it take to make this go away today?\u2019 you can end up paying less.\u201d\n\nBut, an outright refusal (which is recommended by many in law enforcement) increases the likelihood that your data won\u2019t \u201csurvive.\u201d\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s very hard to figure out decryption keys,\u201d he said.\n\nSo, as is the case in the physical world, preparation is key.\n\n\u201cYou need preventative tools, detection tools, restorative tools, crypto currency stockpile, a business risk assessment, cyber insurance, education and table-top exercises,\u201d he said.\n\nHe added that he knows maintaining a supply of crypto currency is controversial, but said it is simply dealing with reality. \u201cIf you don\u2019t have a Bitcoin supply, then you should at least know a broker,\u201d he said.