Ransomware payments increase 500% in the last year

Photo by FLY:D

Sophos, a global leader of innovative security solutions that defeat cyberattacks, today released its annual “State of Ransomware 2024” survey report, which found that the average ransom payment has increased 500% in the last year. In Singapore, organisations that paid the ransom reported an average payment of $1,584,130, with a global average of $3,960,917.

However, ransoms are just one part of the cost. Excluding ransoms, the survey found the average cost of recovery reached $2.20 million, a decrease of more than $1 million since the $3.46 million that Sophos reported in 2023.

Despite the soaring ransoms, this year’s survey indicates a slight reduction in the rate of ransomware attacks with 64% of Singaporean organisations being hit, compared with 84% in 2023. While the propensity to be hit by ransomware increases with revenue, even the smallest organisations (less than $10 million in revenue) are still regularly targeted, with just under half (47%) hit by ransomware in the last year globally.

The 2024 report also found that 42% of ransom demands in Singapore were for $1 million or more, suggesting ransomware operators are seeking huge payoffs. Unfortunately, these increased ransom amounts are not just for the highest-revenue organisations surveyed. Globally, nearly half (46%) of organisations with revenue of less $50 million received a seven-figure ransom demand in the last year.

“We must not let the slight dip in attack rates give us a sense of complacency. Ransomware attacks are still the most dominant threat today and are fueling the cybercrime economy,” said John Shier, field CTO, Sophos.

“Without ransomware we would not see the same variety and volume of precursor threats and services that feed into these attacks. The skyrocketing costs of ransomware attacks belie the fact that this is an equal opportunity crime. The ransomware landscape offers something for every cybercriminal, regardless of skill. While some groups are focused on multi-million-dollar ransoms, there are others that settle for lower sums by making it up in volume.”

For the second year running, exploited vulnerabilities were the most commonly identified root cause of an attack, impacting 33% of Singaporean organisations. This was closely followed by compromised credentials (21%). This is directly in line with recent, in-the-field incident response findings from Sophos’ most recent Active Adversary report.

Victims worldwide where the attack started with exploited vulnerabilities reported the most severe impact to their organisation, with a higher rate of backup compromise (75%), data encryption (67%) and the propensity to pay the ransom (71%) than when attacks started with compromised credentials.

The surveyed organisations also had considerably greater financial and operational impact, with the average recovery cost sitting at $3.58 million compared with $2.58 million worldwide, and when an attack started with compromised credentials and a greater proportion of attacked organisations taking more than a month to recover. Locally, the average bill incurred by Singaporean organisations to recover from a ransomware attack was reported at $2.20 million, a drop from the $3.46 million reported in 2023.

Other notable findings from the report include:

  • The eventual ransom paid by Singaporean organisations, was on average, 77% of the
  • initial demand. In comparison, globally, organisations paid 94% of the initial demand.
  • All Singaporean ransom payments are funded from multiple sources, above the global average of 82%.
  • In 98% of Singaporean ransomware attacks, cybercriminals tried to compromise the organisation’s backups, above the global average of 94%. 45% of backup compromise attempts were successful. This is below the global average of 57%.
  • Data was also stolen in 25% of attacks where data was encrypted, below the global average of 32% but above the 16% reported by Singaporean respondents in our 2023 study – increasing attackers’ ability to extort money from their victims.

“Managing risk is at the core of what we do as defenders. The two most common root causes of ransomware attacks, exploited vulnerabilities and compromised credentials, are preventable, yet still plague too many organisations. Businesses need to critically assess their levels of exposure to these root causes and address them immediately. In a defensive environment where resources are scarce, its time organisations impose costs on the attackers, as well. Only by raising the bar on what’s required to breach networks can organisations hope to maximise their defensive spend,” said Shier.

Sophos recommends the following best practices to help organisations defend against ransomware and other cyberattacks:

  • Understand your risk profile, with tools such as Sophos Managed Risk which can assess an organisation’s external attack surface, prioritise the riskiest exposures and provide tailored remediation guidance
  • Implement endpoint protection that is designed to stop a range of evergreen and constantly changing ransomware techniques, such as Sophos Intercept X
  • Bolster your defenses with round-the-clock threat detection, investigation and response, either through an in-house team or with the support of a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) provider
  • Build and maintain an incident response plan, as well as making regular back-ups and practicing recovering data from backups

Data for the State of Ransomware 2024 report comes from a vendor-agnostic survey of 5,000 cybersecurity/IT leaders conducted between January and February 2024. Respondents were based in 14 countries across the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific. Organisations surveyed had between 100 and 5,000 employees, and revenue ranged from less than $10 million to more than $5 billion.