44% of Nigerian companies paid ransom to hackers for hijacked data in 2021 – Report

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OVER 71 per cent of Nigerian businesses were hit by ransomware attacks in 2021 while 44 per cent of the affected firms paid ransom to retrieve their data back, a report by Sophos, a United Kingdom (UK) cybersecurity solutions firm reveals.

The survey report titled, ‘The State of Ransomware 2022′, carried out in 31 countries showed that Nigerian businesses hit by ransomware attacks rose from 22 per cent in 2020 to 71 per cent in 2021.

Targets hit by the attacks were asked to pay a ransom, according to the report. It also revealed that 44 per cent of Nigerian businesses paid an average sum of $3.43 million in 2021 to rectify the attacks compared to $0.46 million paid in 2020.

More victims are paying the ransom — In 2021, 44 per cent of organisations that had data encrypted in a ransomware attack paid the ransom.

“The impact of a ransomware attack can be immense — the average cost to recover from the most recent ransomware attack in 2021 was $3.43m,” the report said.

Ransomware attacks involve the infection of computers with malicious software, often downloaded by clicking on seemingly innocuous links in emails or other website pop-ups that lock users out of their systems, with the demand of a ransom to be paid to restore computer functions.

Giving no details of the companies involved, the report says Nigerian firms took an average of one month to recover from damage and disruption by ransomware, revealing a slow recovery time.

However, the report disclosed that 97 per cent of organisations affected said the attack had impacted their ability to operate, while 96 per cent of the victims lost business or revenue because of the development.

According to the report, 62 per cent of Nigeria’s organisations have cyber insurance while 38 per cent have cyber insurance but with exceptions/exclusions in the policy.

“Many organisations rely on cyber insurance to help them recover from a ransomware attack, 81 per cent of mid-sized organizations had cyber insurance that covers them in the event of a ransomware attack – and, in 97 per cent of incidents, the insurer paid some or all the costs incurred,” the report read.

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The report analysed the impact of ransomware on 5,600 mid-sized organisations in 31 countries in Europe, the United States, Asia-Pacific and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The principal research scientist at Sophos, Chester Wisniewski, says the proportion of victims paying the ransom increased, even when they may have other options available.

He alluded the development to several factors.

“There could be several reasons for this, including incomplete backups or the desire to prevent stolen data from appearing on a public leak site. In the aftermath of a ransomware attack, there is often intense pressure to get back up and running as soon as possible.

“Restoring encrypted data using backups can be a difficult and time-consuming process, so it can be tempting to think that paying a ransom for a decryption key is a faster option. It’s also an option fraught with risk,” he said.

A 2019 report by Serianu revealed that Africa lost $3.5 billion to cyberattacks. Nigeria was the hardest hit with losses of $649 million, followed by Kenya with $210 million, and Tanzania with $99 million.

Wisniewski added that the number of organisations directly impacted by ransomware has almost doubled within the last twelve months.

“Organisations don’t know what the attackers might have done, such as adding backdoors, copying passwords, and more. If organizations don’t thoroughly clean up the recovered data, they’ll end up with all that potentially toxic material in their network and potentially exposed to a repeat attack.”

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