Survey: Half of small firms hit by ransomware, paid an average $2,500 in 'ransom'

Larry Ponemon

We are pleased to present the findings of The Rise of Ransomware, sponsored by Carbonite, a report on how organizations are preparing for and dealing with ransomware infections. As of September 2016, the Justice Department reported more than 4,000 ransomware attacks daily since January 1, 2016. This is a 300-percent increase over the approximately 1,000 attacks per day seen in 2015.

You can read the full research at  Here is a summary:

We surveyed 618 individuals in small to medium-sized organizations who have responsibility for containing ransomware infections within their organization. These individuals, as revealed in this study, dread a ransomware infection and many of them (59 percent of respondents) would rather go without WiFi for a week than deal with a ransomware attack. Furthermore, 77 percent of respondents believe that those who unleash ransomware should pay for the crime. Specifically, 47 percent of respondents say criminals should face criminal prosecution and 27 percent of respondents say they should be subject to civil prosecution.

There is a significant gap between the perceptions of the seriousness of the threat and the ability of a company to prevent ransomware in the future. While 66 percent of respondents rate the threat of ransomware as very serious, only 13 percent of respondents rate their companies’ preparedness to prevent ransomware as high.

Fifty-one percent of companies represented in this research have experienced a ransomware attack. The following explains how these companies were affected.

  •  Companies experienced an average of 4 ransomware attacks and paid an average of $2,500 per attack.
  • If companies didn’t pay ransom, it was because they had a full and accurate backup. Respondents also believe a full and accurate backup is the best defense.
  • Companies suffered financial consequences such as the need to invest in new technologies, the loss of customers and lost money due to downtime.
  • Cyber criminals were most likely to use phishing/social engineering and insecure websites to unleash ransomware. Respondents believe the cyber criminal specifically targeted their company.
  • Compromised devices infected other devices in the network. Very often, data was exfiltrated from the device.
  • Companies were reluctant to report the incident to law enforcement because of concerns about negative publicity.

Following are the key takeaways from this research.

 Many companies think they are too small to be a target. Perceptions about the likelihood of an infection affect ransomware prevention and detection procedures. Fifty-seven percent of respondents believe their company is too small to be a target of ransomware and, as a result, only 46 percent of respondents believe prevention of ransomware attacks is a high priority for their company. Despite not being a high priority, 59 percent of respondents believe a ransomware attack would have serious financial consequences for their company and 53 percent of respondents would consider paying a ransom if their company’s data was lost (100 percent – 47 percent of respondents who would never pay a ransom).

 Current technologies are not considered sufficient to prevent ransomware infections. Only 27 percent of respondents are confident their current antivirus software will protect their company from ransomware. There is also concern about how the use of Internet of Things connected devices will increase their risk of ransomware.

 Inability to detect all ransomware infections puts companies at risk. An average of one or more ransomware infections go undetected per month and are able to bypass their organization’s IPS and/or AV systems, according to 44 percent of respondents. However, 29 percent of respondents say they cannot determine how many ransomware infections go undetected in a typical month.

 One or more ransomware attacks are believed to be possible in the next 12 months. Sixty-eight percent of respondents believe their company is very vulnerable (30 percent) or vulnerable (38 percent) to a ransomware attack. Relative to other types of cyber attacks, 67 percent of respondents say ransomware is much worse (35 percent) or worse (32 percent).

 The severity and volume of ransomware infections have increased over the past 12 months. Sixty percent of respondents say the volume or frequency of ransomware infections have significantly increased (22 percent) or increased (38 percent). Fifty-seven percent say the severity of ransomware infections have significantly increased (18 percent) or increased (39 percent) over the past 12 months. In a typical week, the companies documented in this research have experienced an average of 26 ransomware alerts per week. An average of 47 percent of these alerts are considered reliable.

 Negligent and uninformed employees put companies at risk. Fifty-eight percent of respondents say negligent employees put their company at risk for a ransomware attack. Only 29 percent of respondents are very confident (9 percent) or confident (20 percent) their employees can detect risky links or sites that could result in a ransomware attack.

 To prevent ransomware infections, employees need to become educated on the ransomware threat. Fifty-five percent of respondents say their organizations conduct training programs on what employees should be doing to protect data. However, only 33 percent of respondents say their companies address the ransomware threat.

 Most companies experience encrypting ransomware. Fifty-one percent of respondents had a ransomware incident within the past 3 months to more than one year ago. Eighty percent of respondents say they experienced encrypting ransomware and 20 percent of respondents say their company experienced locker ransomware. These companies have experienced an average of 4 ransomware incidents. Most respondents (59 percent) believe the cyber criminal specifically targeted them and their company.

 The consequences of ransomware are costly. The top consequences of a ransomware attack are financial. Attacks required companies to invest in new security technologies (33 percent of respondents), customers were lost (32 percent of respondents) and lost money due to downtime

(32 percent of respondents). Moreover, the ransomware incident is believed to make their company more vulnerable to future attacks (49 percent of respondents).

By far, most ransomware incidents are unleashed as a result of phishing and insecure websites. Forty-three percent of respondents say the ransomware was unleashed by phishing/social engineering and 30 percent of respondents say it was unleashed by insecure or spoofed websites. Desktops/laptops and servers were the devices most often compromised at 55 percent and 33 percent of respondents, respectively.

 According to 56 percent of respondents, the compromised device was used for both personal and business purposes. The compromised device infected other devices in the network (42 percent of respondents) and the cloud (21 percent of respondents).

 Many companies paid the ransom. Forty-eight percent of respondents say their company paid the ransom. The average payment was $2,500. A key element in making ransomware work for the attacker is a convenient payment system that is hard to trace. The ransom was most often paid using Bitcoin (33 percent of respondents) or cash (25 percent of respondents). Fifty-five percent of respondents say once the payment was made, the cyber criminal provided the decryption cypher or key to unlock compromised devices.

 Attackers demand speedy payment. Forty-six percent of respondents say the attacker wanted payment in less than two days. Only 16 percent did not place a time limit for payment.

 Data was exfiltrated from the compromised device. Fifty-five percent of respondents say with certainty or it was likely that the ransomware exfiltrated data from the compromised device(s). On average companies spent 42 hours dealing with and containing the ransomware incident.

 Full and accurate backup is a critical ransomware defense. Fifty-two percent of respondents did not pay the ransom because they had full backup (42 percent of respondents). Sixty-eight percent of respondents in companies that experienced a ransomware incident say it is essential (30 percent) or very important (38 percent) to have a full and accurate backup as a defense against future ransomware incidents.

 Fear of publicity stops companies from reporting the incident to law enforcement. Despite the FBI’s pleas to report the incident to law enforcement, 49 percent of respondents say their company did not report the ransomware attack. As shown in Figure 16, the primary reason was to avoid the publicity.

Read the rest of this research at

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