Alarming numbers from the last quarter of 2019 show that ransom demand payments doubled compared to the previous quarter, with the average ransom payment rising 104 percent from the previous quarter to $84,116 (Coveware), wrapping up a successful year for ransomware operators. From there, the numbers just get scarier. Coveware reported that organizations hit with ransomware suffered an average of 16.2 days in downtime which is an increase of over four days from the third quarter. 

Coveware’s CEO and co-founder Bill Siegel commented on the huge increase in ransom payments, stating, “The doubling of the amount was surprising. I think we expected it to rise, but had not expected the impact of large enterprise attacks to pull the average up as much as it did.”

Coveware’s reports also indicated that attackers’ techniques are changing, with increases in ransomware attacks which include data exfiltration and exposure techniques. Data exfiltration — the practice of exfiltrating data before encrypting it and threatening to leak it to the public unless the demand is paid — became a trend in summer 2019.

Why is this such a successful market for hackers right now?

Seigel explained that cybercrime is a business, and just like any other business, when costs are low and profits are high, business is booming. Nearly 60 percent of attacks last quarter used stolen Remote Desktop Protocol credentials, which are available on the darkweb for less than $100. Coveware estimated that hackers using ransomware only needed to get returns on about 2 percent of their attacks to make a hefty profit. “This will continue until the profit margins go down for these cheap and simple attacks,” says Seigel. “As of right now, the margins are great for cybercrime, so it marches on.”

But low costs aren’t the only things enticing cybercriminals to use ransomware. Reports show that victims are increasingly more willing to bargain with hackers. A recent survey of 600 security professions by Proofpoint suggests that a little more than half of the affected organizations in 2019 decided to pay the ransom. However, the survey also found that of those who paid, 22 percent were still unable to access their data, and 9 percent were hit with more demands.

What Can You Do to Avoid Paying the Ransom?

A secure infrastructure has multiple layers of security with working backups in place underneath it all. Seigel explained that the companies that agree to pay the ransom payments are usually the ones with compromised backups or without any backups in place. “Those who think paying a ransom will help them recover faster are incredibly mistaken,” he said. “In our experience that is absolutely false, and in practice it does not happen. Once companies realize the extent of the remediation work necessary just to cleanse their production network, such that you could safely decrypt it, they realize that on a risk and time adjusted basis, restoring from backups is always a better option.” Learn more about Trinsio’s fast and secure backups here.