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Most manufacturing firms hit by ransomware refuse to pay attackers — Sophos survey

Companies in the manufacturing sector are the least (19%) likely to submit to a ransom demand when hit by ransomware. This is among the findings of Sophos’ “The State of Ransomware in Manufacturing and Production 2021” survey.

“The State of Ransomware in Manufacturing and Production 2021 survey” polled 5,400 people working in a leadership role in information technology (IT), including 438 in manufacturing and production companies, in 30 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The cybersecurity company’s survey found that the manufacturing companies are able to restore (68%) encrypted data, which could explain their will to refuse the demand for ransom.

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“The sector’s high ability to restore data from backups enables many companies to refuse attacker demands for payment in the case of traditional, encryption-based ransomware attacks,” said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos. “However, it also means that adversaries are forced to find other approaches to make money from victims, such as stealing data and threatening to leak company information if their financial demands aren’t met.


The Sophos survey that 36% of the businesses surveyed were hit by ransomware in 2020 and that 9% of ransomware victims were hit with extortion-based ransomware attacks, compared to a global average of 7%. The average ransomware recovery cost was $1.52 million, less than the global average of $1.85 million, according to Sophos.

The findings also show that manufacturing and production companies worry more than any other sector about being attacked with ransomware in the future. Sixty percent (60%) of respondents said this is because attacks are so sophisticated, they have become harder to stop. Forty-six percent (46%) believe that since ransomware is so prevalent, it is inevitable they’ll get hit by cybercrime.

Sophos experts recommend the following best practices for all organizations across all sectors:

  • Assume the organization will be hit. Ransomware remains highly prevalent. No sector, country, or organization size is immune from the risk. It’s better to be prepared and not be hit than the other way round.
  • Make frequent backups. Routine backups are the number one method organizations use to get their data back after an attack. Even if organizations pay the ransom, attackers rarely return all of the data, so backups are essential either way. Aim for an approach that involves at least three different copies, using at least two different backup systems, and with at least one copy stored offline and preferably offsite.
  • Deploy layered protection. In the face of the considerable increase in extortion-based attacks, it is more important than ever to keep the adversaries out of the network in the first place. Use layered protection to block attackers at as many points as possible across an entire estate.
  • Combine human experts and anti-ransomware technology. The key to stopping ransomware is defense in depth that combines dedicated anti-ransomware technology and human-led threat hunting. Technology provides scale and automation, while human experts are best able to detect the telltale tactics, techniques, and procedures that indicate when a skilled attacker is attempting to break-in. To bolster in-house skills, enlist the support of a specialist cybersecurity company. Security Operations Centers (SOCs) are now realistic options for organizations of all sizes.
  • Don’t pay the ransom, if this is an option. Independent of any ethical considerations, paying the ransom is an ineffective way to get data back. Sophos’ research shows that after a ransom is paid adversaries will restore, on average, only two-thirds of the encrypted files.
  • Have a malware recovery plan and continuously test and update it. The best way to stop a cyberattack from turning into a full breach is to prepare in advance. Organizations that fall victim to an attack often realize they could have avoided a lot of cost, pain, and disruption if they had an incident response plan in place.

” Backups are vital, but they cannot protect against this risk, so manufacturing and production businesses should not rely on them as an anti-extortion defense,” Wisniewski said. “Organizations need to extend their anti-ransomware defenses by combining technology with human-led threat hunting to neutralize today’s advanced human-led cyberattacks.”