Ransomware presents the most immediate danger to UK businesses, according to the head of Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre.

In a speech given earlier this month, Lindy Cameron warned that ransomware poses the most immediate danger – not just to businesses but also schools, local councils and national governments. In fact, recent attacks that hit everyone from Hackney Council to the Irish Health Service show that nobody is exempt.

Cameron went on to suggest that worst may even still be to come, as businesses that choose to settle a ransom are only playing into the hands of cybercriminals. By paying out, these businesses are not only validating the criminals but giving them greater resources to roll out further attacks elsewhere.

Another challenge to overcome is the global nature of the issue at hand, with cybercriminals operating outside of the UK’s jurisdiction but still able to attack businesses and institutions on these shores. In fact, many of the biggest and most devastating attacks of the past 12 months were said to have originated from China and Russia.

To this end, Cameron called for a global fight, “to ensure no place becomes a safe haven”.

The advice to businesses remains to not pay any ransom demands – no matter how attractive the prospect. The fear of losing data may compel victims to pay up, but doing so doesn’t actually guarantee that everything will be restored. Often, the technology used to encrypt the data has been so poorly made that all information ends up scrambled rather than returned in its original state.

Also, businesses are doing the wider system more harm if they continue to finance these cybercriminals.

In her keynote speech at Chatham House’s cyber conference, Cameron warned: “Ransomware presents the most immediate danger to UK businesses and most other organisations, from FTSE 100 companies to schools; from critical national infrastructure to local councils.

“We expect ransomware will continue to be an attractive route for criminals as long as organisations remain vulnerable and continue to pay.”