Ransomware Payment and Negotiation Tactics Playbook

December 16, 20235 min read

Playbook Objectives

The primary objectives of the Cyber Range Sphere Playbook for Ransomware Payment and Negotiation Tactics are as follows:

  • To educate and train the incident response team on recognizing and responding to ransomware incidents.
  • To develop negotiation skills and tactics for use when engaging with ransomware attackers.
  • To assess the effectiveness of current security measures and identify potential improvements.
  • To practice decision-making processes related to ransomware payment considerations.
  • To maintain compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and guidance on ransomware handling.
  • To test the resilience of backup and recovery strategies under pressure.


Difficulty Level

  • Advanced: This exercise requires a thorough understanding of ransomware attack vectors, advanced negotiation skills, and strong knowledge of network defense mechanisms.



Company Name: Techlogix Corporation

Scenario Background: Techlogix Corporation, a leading financial software provider, has faced increased cyber threats due to the sensitive nature of financial data it deals with. As part of their proactive cyber defense strategy, the company established a comprehensive incident response plan. However, recent trends in sophisticated ransomware attacks targeting the financial sector have prompted Techlogix to specifically focus on ransomware response tactics.


The Techlogix’s network includes multiple layers of security, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and segmented networks with dedicated servers for development, staging, and production environments. Despite these defenses, attackers have become adept at exploiting even the smallest vulnerabilities.


IT Team:

  • Dana Crighton, CISO of Techlogix Corporation.
  • Alex Verona, Senior Network Security Analyst.
  • Rachel Ames, Incident Response Team Lead.
  • Javier Gonzales, Backup and Recovery Specialist.
  • The Negotiator: A cybersecurity consultant specializing in ransomware crisis management.

Why the Company Needs This Exercise:

Techlogix Corporation needs this exercise to:

  • Evaluate the preparedness of their incident response team.
  • Refine the protocol for interacting with threat actors.
  • Understand the legal and ethical implications of ransom payment.
  • Review the effectiveness of their security practices and data backup strategies.
  • Train their staff in high-pressure, realistic scenarios to build muscle memory for actual incidents.


During the exercise, Techlogix aims to simulate an attack where ransomware successfully encrypts critical customer databases and servers. The incident response team is required to engage in simulated negotiations, explore recovery options, and decide the best course of action to maintain the company’s operations and reputation.



  • Cyber Incident Response
  • Crisis Management
  • Risk Assessment & Decision Making


Attack Steps

  • Initial Breach: An email-based phishing campaign targets Techlogix employees. A successful click leads to the compromise of an employee’s workstation.
  • Lateral Movement: The attackers escalate privileges and move laterally within the network, identifying and compromising the database server containing sensitive customer information.
  • Encryption and Ransom Demand: The ransomware is deployed, encrypting both the database and connected backup systems. A ransom note is displayed with a bitcoin payment demand and a deadline.
  • Incident Response Activation: Upon detection of suspicious activity, the incident response team, led by Rachel Ames, convenes and begins analysis. The encrypted nature of files is discovered, and ransomware infection is confirmed.
  • Notification & Escalation: Dana Crighton, the CISO, is immediately informed of the breach. She activates the ransomware crisis protocol, alerting the executive leadership and legal counsel.
  • Assessment & Strategy Development: Alex Verona, the network security analyst, assesses the attack vector and determines the extent of the breach. Javier Gonzales assesses the viability of backup systems and recovery points.
  • Engagement with the Negotiator: The Negotiator advises on communication strategies with the threat actor while evaluating the credibility and intent behind the ransom demand.
  • Negotiation Simulation: Simulated back-and-forth communication with the attackers to extend the deadline, reduce the ransom amount, and gauge the possibility of receiving decryption keys.
  • Decision Making & Impact Assessment: The team, including the CISO, negotiates and presents options to the executive leadership. Options include complying with the ransom demand, leveraging backups, or attempting to break encryption. Each option’s impact on business, legal implications, and public relations is considered.
  • Resolution Exercise: The team exercises their chosen path of action, examining the outcomes of their decision, including the restoration of services and systems, evaluation of data loss, and public disclosure strategies.
  • After-Action Review: A comprehensive review is conducted to identify lessons learned, evaluate the efficiency of the actions taken, and update policies, procedures, and technical controls accordingly.