Four in five ransomware victims suffer repeat attacks

Male hacker hand on laptop computer keyboard with red binary screen of ransomware attack
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Four in every five organizations that pay ransomware fees suffer another attack, according to research released today by security company Cybereason.

The company published the figure in a report that surveyed cyber security professionals worldwide, with 24% of them based in the US. It found that 46% of the companies targeted a second time were attacked by the same criminals that infected them the first time.

A rise in double extortion attacks — ransomware attacks that encrypt files and steal data — is likely to spur repeat attacks from ransomware groups and their affiliates who want to extract more money from victims.

According to the report, DarkSide, the gang that successfully attacked Colonial Pipeline, had been pressuring its targets with threats to release insider information to stock traders so they could short company shares.

Cyber criminals seem to be good at honoring ransom payments by providing decryption keys, but they aren't great at quality assurance. While 51% of companies that paid a ransom said they retrieved their data in full. Another 46% said they got their data back, but some of it was corrupted. Only 3% didn't get their data back at all.

Ransomware attacks also had a devastating effect on businesses. The study revealed that two-thirds of organizations suffered significant revenue losses, and 29% laid off some staff in the wake of an attack, which often led to the business’s demise. In the US, 31% of companies suffering a ransomware attack closed altogether.


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Senior executives weren’t immune from the effects of successful ransomware attacks. The report found that a third of companies lost senior leadership after an attack, either by dismissal or resignation.

The research found businesses relied heavily on cyber insurance to cover the losses, as 54% of companies took out a policy. However, this often isn't an effective hedge against ransomware risk. Of companies with cyber insurance and suffered an attack, 42% said cyber insurance only partially covered the losses.

Danny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury has been a print journalist specialising in technology since 1989 and a freelance writer since 1994. He has written for national publications on both sides of the Atlantic and has won awards for his investigative cybersecurity journalism work and his arts and culture writing. 

Danny writes about many different technology issues for audiences ranging from consumers through to software developers and CIOs. He also ghostwrites articles for many C-suite business executives in the technology sector and has worked as a presenter for multiple webinars and podcasts.