Data extortion ransomware attacks on retailers up over 1,000% during pandemic

Retail organisations reported an increase in ransomware attacks using data extortion in 2020.

According to a new report from global cybersecurity technology company, CrowdStrike, there was a surge in ransomware attacks during the pandemic, with 142 data extortion attacks on retailers in 2020, making it the fourth most-targeted industry globally, up 1,280% by the end of 2020 compared to pre-pandemic in Q1 2020.

Overall during the year data extortion became the most used attack method across all sectors – with 1,430 incidents reported globally in 2020.

Ransomware is malicious software that infects computers and displays messages demanding a fee to be paid in order for a system to work again.

The most targeted sector in 2020 for these kind of attacks was Industrials & Engineering recording 229 successful attacks, followed by Manufacturing at 228 attacks and Technology at 145 attacks.

Although the retail sector may not have been hit the hardest, the estimated economic cost of ransomware attacks on retailers and their associated supply chains could be as high as $85bn to $193bn (£60bn to £138bn) globally.

North America recorded the highest levels of ransomware attacks in 2020 using data extortion at 947 incidents. This is 177% higher than Europe at 342 incidents in second place and 1,313% higher than Asia in third place at 67 incidents.

According to CrowdStrike, 72% of organisations surveyed said they were more concerned about ransomware attacks now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, than before the virus outbreak.

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