Paying cybercriminals to restore data encrypted during a ransomware attack is not an easy and inexpensive path to recovery, a Sophos survey reveals.
In fact, the total cost of recovery almost doubles when organizations pay a ransom. The survey polled 5,000 IT decision makers in organizations in 26 countries across six continents, including Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
51% of organizations had experienced a significant ransomware attack in the previous 12 months, compared to 54% in 2017. Data was encrypted in 73% of attacks that successfully breached an organization.
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 organizations paid the ransom. 27% of organizations hit by ransomware admitted paying the ransom.
“Organizations 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’ 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.
Recovering encrypted data
56% 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.