3 in 4 retailers unable to stop a ransomware attack in progress

Only 26% of retail organisations in the past year were able to disrupt a ransomware attack before their data was encrypted, according to the latest research from Sophos.

This is a three-year low for the sector—a decline from 34% in 2021 and 28% in 2022—suggesting the sector is increasingly unable to halt ransomware attacks already in progress.

These are part of findings of a poll that covered 3,000 IT/cybersecurity leaders in organisations with between 100 and 5,000 employees, including 355 from the retail sector, across 14 countries in the Americas; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and the Asia-Pacific region.

Chester Wisniewski, director and global field CTO at Sophos, said that ransomware criminals have been encrypting increasingly greater percentages of their retail victims in the last three years, as evidenced by the steadily declining rate of retailers stopping cybercriminal attacks in progress. 

“Retailers must up their defensive game by setting up security that detects and responds to intrusions earlier in the attack chain,” said Wisniewski.

In addition, the report found that, for those retail organisations that paid the ransom, their median recovery costs — excluding the ransom payment — were four times the recovery costs of those that used backups to recover their data ($3 million versus $750,000).

“Forty-three percent of retail victims paid the ransom according to our survey respondents, yet the median recovery cost to victims who paid the ransom was four times the cost to those who used backups and other recovery methods,” said Wisniewski.

“There are no shortcuts in these situations and rebuilding systems is almost always required. It’s better to deprive the criminals of their spoils and build back better,” he added.

Additional key findings show that the retail sector experienced its highest rate of encryption over the past three years, with 71% of those organisations targeted by ransomware stating that attackers successfully encrypted their data.

The percentage of retail organisations attacked by ransomware declined to 69% last year from 77% the previous year.

Also, the percentage of retail organisations that recovered in less than a day decreased from 15% to 9% this year, while the percentage of retail organisations that took more than a month to recover increased from 17% to 21%.