Ransomware attacks taking toll on security pros

A third of organisations experience attacks weekly, and two-thirds of security decision makers agree they would pay ransom

Posted 4 August 2022 by Christine Horton

Ransomware attacks show no sign of slowing, according to a report.

2022 Impacts: Ransomware attacks and preparedness’ from cloud security firm Menlo Security shows that a third of organisations experience a ransomware attack at least once a week. One in 10 experience them more than once a day.

The research, conducted among 500+ IT security decision makers at US and UK organisations with more than 1,000 employees, highlights the impact this is having on security professionals’ own wellbeing. When asked what keeps them awake at night, 41 percent of respondents say they worry about ransomware attacks evolving beyond their team’s knowledge and skillset, while 39 percent worry about them evolving beyond their company’s security capabilities.

Their biggest concern, however, is the risk of employees ignoring corporate security advice and clicking on links or attachments containing malware (46 percent). Respondents worry more about this than they do their own job security, with just a quarter (26 percent) of respondents worried about losing their job. 

According to the report, around half of organisations (61 percent in the US and 44 percent in the UK) have been the victim of a successful ransomware attack in the last 18 months, with customers and prospects the most likely entry point for an attack.

Partners/suppliers and employees/contractors are also seen as serious security risks, although one in 10 admit they are unable to identify how the attacks got in. The top three ransomware attack vectors are email (54 percent), web browsers via a desktop or laptop (49 percent) and mobile devices (39 percent).  

“Security professionals are coming under increasing pressure as organisations face an unprecedented number of highly sophisticated threats like ransomware,” said Mark Guntrip, senior director of cybersecurity strategy at Menlo Security.

“On the frontline of cyber defence, they are often coping with huge amounts of stress, worrying about what employees are doing, their team and whether they are getting the right support internally, so it’s no surprise they are prioritising the business over job security. Indeed, the burnout and high churn rate of CISOs is widely reported.”  

Cost of recovery from ransomware attacks underestimated

The report also suggests that there is a growing disparity between the perceived cost and actual cost of recovering from a ransomware attack among security professionals. The survey shows that the average estimated cost is $326,531, with insurance payouts extending up to an average of $555,971 – although a significant minority (24 percent) admit they don’t know the value of their insurance policy or if they have cover. Industry figures, however, show the average total cost of recovery from a ransomware attack in 2021 was $1.4 million. 

There is also some debate about whether to pay a ransomware demand or not. One in three (32 percent) decision makers worry about the risk of paying a ransomware demand and not getting their data back. Yet nearly two-thirds of respondents wouldpay a ransomware demand. Almost a third (31 percent) say it’s down to their insurance company to pay it, and nearly one in five say the government should pay. More than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents say they would never pay a ransomware demand.