Study: Paying Ransomware Nearly Doubles Cost

Published On: June 1, 2020Categories: Buzz, Uncategorized

Sophos, a UK-based cybersecurity company, announced the results of its global State of Ransomware 2020 survey, suggesting that paying cybercriminals to restore data encrypted during a ransomware attack almost doubles the overall cost.

More than half of organizations participating in the survey had experienced a significant ransomware attack in the previous 12 months, compared to 54% in 2017. Data was encrypted in nearly three quarters of the attacks with an average cost of more than $730,000. This includes business downtime, lost orders, and operational costs, but not including the ransom, itself. This average cost rose to $1.4 million, almost twice as much, when organizations paid the ransom. More than one quarter of organizations hit by ransomware admitted paying the ransom.

“On the face of it, paying the ransom appears to be an effective way of getting data restored, but this is illusory said principal research scientist Chester Wisniewski. “Sophos’ findings show that paying the ransom makes little difference to the recovery burden in terms of time and cost. This could be because it is unlikely that a single magical decryption key is all that’s needed to recover. Often, the attackers may share several keys and using them to restore data may be a complex and time-consuming affair.”

More than half of the IT managers surveyed were able to recover their data from backups without paying the ransom. In a very small minority of cases (1%), paying the ransom did not lead to the recovery of data. This figure rose to 5% for public sector organizations. In fact, 13% of the public sector organizations surveyed never managed to restore their encrypted data, compared to 6% overall.

However, contrary to popular belief, the public sector was least affected by ransomware, with just 45% of the organizations surveyed in this category saying they were hit by a significant attack in the previous year. At a global level, media, leisure and entertainment businesses in the private sector were most affected by ransomware, with 60% of respondents reporting attacks.

“An effective backup system that enables organizations to restore encrypted data without paying the attackers is business critical, but there are other important elements to consider if a company is to be truly resilient to ransomware,” added Wisniewski. “Advanced adversaries like the operators behind the Maze ransomware don’t just encrypt files, they steal data for possible exposure or extortion purposes. We’ve recently reported on LockBit using this tactic. Some attackers also attempt to delete or otherwise sabotage backups to make it harder for victims to recover data and increase pressure on them to pay. The way to address these malicious maneuvers is to keep backups offline, and use effective, multi-layered security solutions that detect and block attacks at different stages.”

The survey was conducted by an independent market research agency in January and February 2020. The survey interviewed 5,000 IT decision makers in 26 countries. All respondents were from organizations with between 100 and 5,000 employees.

Channel Impact®
The decision on whether to pay the ransom is a difficult one, especially for healthcare organizations and governmental sectors with 9-1-1 services. In such cases, refusal to pay the ransoms could place lives at risk.

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