The new desk research by NordLocker has discovered which industries are the most popular targets for ransomware gangs to launch their attacks against. After a thorough analysis of 1,200 companies hit by 10 infamous ransomware gangs in 2020 and 2021, 35 of the most victimized industries were identified.

“The latest statistics indicate that a worrying 37% of companies worldwide became victims of ransomware in 2020,” said Oliver Noble, a cybersecurity expert at NordLocker. “From Campari Group in the food and beverage industry to Baltimore County public schools in the education sector, both of which became victims of ransomware last year, no business or institution can feel safe. Our analysis presents the scope of recent ransomware hacks, as well as indicates which industries need to stay particularly cautious.”  

Top Industries Hit By Ransomware

NordLocker’s analysis reveals that construction is the top industry hit by ransomware based on the number of victimized companies (93), followed by manufacturing (86). Finance (69), health care (65), education (63), technology/IT (62), logistics and transportation (59), automotive (56), municipal services (52), and legal (49) comprise the top 10.

Among the hacked companies discovered by NordLocker’s research, there were not only large organizations, such as a global hotel chain, an automotive conglomerate, or a world-wide clothing brand, but also small, family-owned and operated businesses, like an Italian restaurant or a local dental clinic. 

“It is surprising how many companies still take cybersecurity for granted, ‘inviting’ hackers to exploit their vulnerabilities,” Noble said. “When successfully attacked, companies get all their employee data, customer details, client agreements, patents, and other valuable business information inaccessible and threatened to be stolen, leaked, or destroyed for good. To avoid the doomsday, i.e., having business operations put to a standstill, damaged reputation, loss of clients, tiresome legal battles, and huge fines, some organizations are left with no choice but to pay ransom to get the decryption key.”

However, not many businesses can afford paying hackers off. It is estimated that the average total cost of recovery from ransomware has more than doubled from around $761,000 in 2020 to $1.85 million in 2021. And the most worrying fact is that paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee you will get back what’s been taken away. There’s also no guarantee your business won’t get attacked again.

Most Prolific Ransomware Operators

The study by NordLocker has analyzed 10 ransomware gang websites. The most prolific ransomware family is Conti, with 450 attacks under their name. REvil (210 hacks), DopplePaymer (200), and PYSA (188) are also among the most famous and active cybercrime groups that harass businesses.                    

The analysis has found that the top five countries where businesses get attacked most are the U.S. (732 cases), U.K. (74), Canada (62), France (58), and Germany (39). According to Noble, most ransomware gangs come from the post-Soviet states, which still maintain their unfriendliness toward the U.S. and seek to cause harm to both its private and public sectors. Also, a strong belief that American companies are all wealthy might contribute to the reason they get attacked most.

“Internationally operating law enforcement groups work hard to shut ransomware infrastructure down,” Noble said. “Just last week it was reported that a joint operation put REvil’s servers offline. However, the Russian ransomware-as-a-service gang is expected to reemerge. Ransomware is no longer what only skilled hackers are capable of. Any paying user, aka affiliate with little technical knowledge, can use the subscription-based model to employ already developed tools to execute ransomware attacks against businesses.” 

How To Protect Your Business 

Although ransomware attacks are evolving, there are some easy-to-implement cybersecurity tactics to serve your business as defense, including the following.

  • Make sure your employees use strong and unique passwords to connect to your systems. Better yet, implement multifactor authentication.
  • Secure your email by training your staff to identify signs of phishing, especially when an email contains attachments and links.
  • Implement and enforce periodic data backup and restoration processes. An encrypted cloud might be the most secure solution for this.
  • Adopt “zero trust” network access, meaning that every access request to digital resources by a member of staff should be granted only after their identity has been appropriately verified.