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Monday, 24 February 2020 10:14

Windows ransomware taking big toll in Australia, says sec firm Emsisoft Featured

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Windows ransomware taking big toll in Australia, says sec firm Emsisoft Pixabay

Windows ransomware attacks cost Australia about US$39.8 million (A$60.4 million) in ransom demand costs in 2019 at the minimum, a study by the security firm Emsisoft has found. The estimated cost of these attacks, totalling 2874, was US$159.4 million.

The minimum figure for the total cost of these attacks — ransom demand plus downtime costs — to Australia was US$269.7 million, while Emsisoft's estimate was US$1.07 billion.

In a blog post, the company said it had derived these figures partly from third-party statistics which could be based on limited dataset.

"While our calculations are almost certainly under- or over-estimates, they nonetheless provide a clear indication of the enormous economic toll that ransomware is taking," Emsisoft threat analyst Brett Callow said.

The calculations were based on the best information available and both the ransom and downtime costs were significantly under-stated, Emsisoft said.

ransom demand costs

New Zealand saw a much smaller number of attacks, 467, and the minimum cost — the ransom demanded — was US$6.4 million, while the estimated cost was US$25.8 million. Looking at total costs for NZ, the figures were US$43.8 million (minimum) and US$175.3 million (estimated).

Emsisoft, which in December released a report about the scale of ransomware attacks on the US public sector, calculated the cost of ransomware attacks for 10 countries.

The number of ransomware attacks was taken from submissions to the identification service ID Ransomware. "Every submission to this service represents a confirmed incident, and there was a total of 452,151 submissions during 2019," the company said.

However, since about 50% of submissions were about a strain of ransomware known as STOP, which mainly affects home users of Windows and demands a ransom below the average amount, Emsisoft cut the submission number by half when making its calculations.

total cost ransomware

There other aspects factored in. "We believe that only approximately 25% of public and private sector organisations affected by ransomware use ID Ransomware," the company said, adding that because of this it would provide two cost estimates: a minimum cost based on 50% of the actual number of submissions and an estimated cost based on that reduced number x4.

Emsisoft found that the average ransom demand was US$84 and a third of all companies who were attacked paid up.

As to the figure used for calculating the cost of downtime, Emsisoft said it had taken a conservative figure of US$10,000 per day - even though the technology research firm Gartner had, back in 2014, put the downtime cost at US$5600 per minute.

"This figure (the US$10,000 per day) has no basis in reality and we have included it simply to illustrate the enormity of the costs," Emsisoft said.

"The actual costs are almost certainly much higher. As downtime is experienced whether or not a ransom is paid, the minimum cost is based on 50% of the submissions to ID Ransomware while the estimated cost is based on that reduced number x4. As above, we have reduced the numbers by 50% to exclude STOP from the calculations."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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