Paying the ransom doubles cost of recovering from ransomware attack, according to Sophos
- Global survey shows the average cost of recovery is $1.4 million if organisations pay the ransom, $730 000 if they don’t.
- SophosLabs reports on Maze ransomware techniques that increase pressure to pay.
- 24% of the organisations surveyed in South Africa witnessed a significant ransomware attack in the last 12 months.
Sophos, a global leader in next-generation cyber security, announced the findings of its global survey, The State of Ransomware 2020, which reveals that paying cyber criminals to restore data encrypted during a ransomware attack is not an easy and inexpensive path to recovery. In fact, the total cost of recovery almost doubles when organisations pay a ransom. The survey polled 5 000 IT decision-makers in organisations in 26 countries across six continents, including Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
More than half (51%) of organisations had experienced a significant ransomware attack in the previous 12 months, compared to 54% in 2017. In South Africa, 24% of the organisations surveyed mentioned a ransomware attack in the last one year and 44% of the surveyed organisations expect a ransomware attack in the future.
Globally, data was encrypted in nearly three-quarters (73%) of attacks that successfully breached an organisation, while in South Africa, it was 56%. The average cost of addressing the impact of such an attack, including business downtime, lost orders, operational costs, and more, but not including the ransom, was more than $730 000. This average cost rose to $1.4 million, almost twice as much, when organisations paid the ransom. More than one-quarter (27%) of organisations hit by ransomware admitted paying the ransom.
“Organisations may feel intense pressure to pay the ransom to avoid damaging downtime. On the face of it, paying the ransom appears to be an effective way of getting data restored, but this is illusory. Sophos’s 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,” said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist, Sophos.
More than half (56%) the IT managers surveyed were able to recover their data from backups without paying the ransom. Globally, 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 organisations. In fact, 13% of the public sector organisations 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 organisations 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.
Attackers increase pressure to pay
SophosLabs researchers have published a new report, Maze Ransomware: Extorting Victims for 1 Year and Counting, which looks at the tools, techniques and procedures used by this advanced threat that combines data encryption with information theft and the threat of exposure. This approach, which Sophos researchers have also observed being adopted by other ransomware families, like LockBit, is designed to increase pressure on the victim to pay the ransom. The new Sophos report will help security professionals better understand and anticipate the evolving behaviors of ransomware attackers and protect their organisations.
“An effective backup system that enables organisations 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 State of Ransomware 2020 survey was conducted by Vanson Bourne, an independent specialist in market research, in January and February 2020. The survey interviewed 5 000 IT decision-makers in 26 countries, in the US, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and UAE. All respondents were from organisations with between 100 and 5 000 employees.
- Learn about escalating extortion tricks in LockBit Ransomware Borrows Tricks to Keep up with REvil and Maze
- Learn more about SophosLabs’s Snatch and Robbinhood ransomware reports
- Learn more about ransomware behaviour in the Sophos ransomware playbook: How Ransomware Attacks
- Learn about the threat landscape and trends in 2020 in the SophosLabs Threat Report
- Get an overview of the central role Emotet plays with Sophos’ new infographic
- Read the latest security and company news on Naked Security and on Sophos News
- Connect with Sophos on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Spiceworks, and YouTube
As a worldwide leader in next-generation cybersecurity, Sophos protects more than 400,000 organizations of all sizes in more than 150 countries from today’s most advanced cyber threats. Powered by SophosLabs – a global threat intelligence and data science team – Sophos’ cloud-native and AI-powered solutions secure endpoints (laptops, servers and mobile devices) and networks against evolving cyberattack techniques, including ransomware, malware, exploits, data exfiltration, active-adversary breaches, phishing, and more. Sophos Central, a cloud-native management platform, integrates Sophos’ entire portfolio of next-generation products, including the Intercept X endpoint solution and the XG next-generation firewall, into a single “synchronized security” system accessible through a set of APIs. Sophos has been driving a transition to next-generation cybersecurity, leveraging advanced capabilities in cloud, machine learning, APIs, automation, managed threat response, and more, to deliver enterprise-grade protection to any size organization. Sophos sells its products and services exclusively through a global channel of more than 53,000 partners and managed service providers (MSPs). Sophos also makes its innovative commercial technologies available to consumers via Sophos Home. The company is headquartered in Oxford, U.K. More information is available at www.sophos.com