The True Cost of Ransomware

The True Cost of Ransomware - Backblaze

Editor’s Note

This article has been updated since it was originally published in 2021.

When we first published this article, a $70 million ransom demand was unprecedented. Today, demands have reached as high as $240 million, a sum that the Hive ransomware group opened negotiations with in an attack on MediaMarkt, Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailer. 

But then, as now, the ransoms themselves are just a portion, and often a small portion, of the overall cost of ransomware. Ransomware attacks are crimes of opportunity, and there’s a lot more opportunity in the mid-market, where the odd $1 million demand doesn’t make headlines and the victims are less likely to be adequately prepared to recover. And, the cost of those recoveries is what we’ll get into today.

In this post, we’re breaking down the true cost of ransomware and the drivers of those costs.  

Read More About Ransomware

This post is a part of our ongoing series on ransomware. Take a look at our other posts for more information on how businesses can defend themselves against a ransomware attack, important industry trends, and more.

Read About Ransomware ➔ 

Ransom Payments Are the First Line Item

The Sophos State of Ransomware 2023 report, a survey of 3,000 IT decision makers from mid-sized organizations in 14 countries, found the average ransom payment was $1.54 million. This is almost double the 2022 figure of $812,380, and almost 10 times the 2020 average of $170,404, when we last published this article. Coveware, a security consulting firm, found that the average ransom payment for Q2 2023 was $740,144, also representing a big spike over previous quarters. While the specific numbers vary depending on sampling, both reports point to ransoms going up and up.

A graph showing the rising trend in the cost of ransomware payments.

But, Ransoms Are Far From the Only Cost

Sophos found that the mean recovery cost excluding the ransom payment was $2.6 million when the targeted organization paid the ransom and got their data back. And, that cost was still $1.6 million when businesses used backups to restore data.

The cost of recovery comes from a wide range of factors, including:

  • Downtime.
  • People hours.
  • Investment in stronger cybersecurity protections.
  • Repeat attacks.
  • Higher insurance premiums.
  • Legal defense and settlements.
  • Lost reputation.
  • Lost business.


When a company’s systems and data are compromised and operations come to a halt, the consequences are felt across the organization. Financially, downtime results in immediate revenue loss. And, productivity takes a significant hit as employees are unable to access critical resources, leading to missed deadlines and disrupted workflows. According to Coveware, the average downtime in Q2 2022 (the last quarter they collected data on downtime) amounted to over three weeks (24 days). And according to Sophos, 53% of survey respondents took more than one month to recover from the attack. This time should be factored in when calculating the true cost of ransomware.

People Hours

In the aftermath of a ransomware attack, a significant portion, if not all, of a company’s resources will be channeled towards the recovery process. The IT department will be at the forefront, working around the clock to restore systems to full functionality. The marketing and communications teams will shoulder the responsibility of managing crisis communications, while the finance team may find themselves in negotiations with the ransomware perpetrators. Meanwhile, human resources will be addressing employee inquiries and concerns stemming from the incident. Calculating the total hours spent on recovery may not be possible, but it’s a factor to consider in planning.

After recovery, the long term effects of a cybersecurity breach can still be felt in the workforce. In a study of the mental health impacts of cybersecurity on employees, Northwave found that physical and mental health symptoms were still existent up to a year after the cybersecurity attack, and affected both employee morale and business goals. 

Investment in Stronger Cybersecurity Protections

It is highly probable that a company will allocate a greater portion of its budget towards bolstering its cybersecurity measures after being attacked by ransomware, and rightfully so. It’s a prudent and necessary response. As attacks continue to increase in frequency, cyber insurance providers will continue to tighten requirements for coverage. In order to maintain coverage, companies will need to bring systems up to speed.

man working on a laptop with a ransomware demand message

Repeat Attacks

One of the cruel realities of being attacked by ransomware is that it makes businesses a target for repeat attacks. Unsurprisingly, cybercriminals don’t always keep their promises when companies pay ransoms. In fact, paying ransoms lets cybercriminals know you’re an easy future mark. They know you’re willing to pay.

Repeat attacks happen when the vulnerability that allowed cybercriminals access to systems remained susceptible to exploitation. Copycat ransomware operators can easily exploit vulnerabilities that go unaddressed even for a few days. 

Higher Insurance Premiums

As more and more companies file claims for ransomware attacks and recoveries and ransom demands continue to increase, insurers are upping their premiums. In essence, insurers have been confronted with the stark reality that the financial toll exacted by ransomware incidents far exceeds what was once anticipated. In response to this growing financial strain, insurance providers are left with little choice but to raise their premiums. This uptick in premiums reflects the increasing risk landscape of the digital age, where the ever-evolving tactics and sophistication of cybercriminals necessitate a recalibration of risk assessment models and pricing structures within the insurance industry. 

Legal Defense and Settlements

When attacks affect consumers or customers, victims can expect to hear from the lawyers. After a 2021 ransomware attack, payroll services provider UKG agreed to a $6 million settlement. And, big box stores like Target and Home Depot both paid settlements in the tens of millions of dollars following breaches. Even if your information security practices would hold up in court, for most companies, it’s cheaper to settle than to suffer a protracted legal battle.

Lost Reputation and Lost Business

When ransomware attacks make headlines and draw public attention, they can erode trust among customers, partners, and stakeholders. The perception that a company’s cybersecurity measures were insufficient to protect sensitive data and systems can lead to a loss of credibility. Customers may question the safety of their personal information. 

Rebuilding a damaged reputation is a challenging and time-consuming process, requiring transparent communication, proactive security improvements, and a commitment to regaining trust. Ultimately, the impact of reputation loss goes beyond financial losses, as it can significantly affect an organization’s long-term viability and competitiveness in the market.

lock over an image of a woman working on a computer

What You Can Do About It: Defending Against Ransomware

The business of ransomware is booming with no signs of slowing down, and the cost of recovery is enough to put some ill-prepared companies out of business. If it feels like the cost of a ransomware recovery is out of reach, that’s all the more reason to invest in harder security protocols and disaster recovery planning sooner rather than later.

For more information on the ransomware economy, the threat small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are facing, and steps you can take to protect your business, download The Complete Guide to Ransomware.

Download the Ransomware Guide ➔ 

Cost of Ransomware FAQs

1. What is the highest ransomware ransom ever demanded?

Today, ransom demands have reached as high as $240 million, a sum demanded by the Hive ransomware group in an attack on MediaMarkt, Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailer.

2. What is the average ransom payment in 2023?

Average ransom payments vary depending on how reporting entities sample data. Some estimates put the average ransom payment in 2023 in the hundreds of thousands of dollars up to over half a million dollars.

3. How much does ransomware recovery cost?

Ransomware recovery can easily cost in the multiple millions of dollars. The cost of recovery comes from a wide range of factors, including downtime, people hours, investment in stronger cybersecurity protections, repeat attacks, higher insurance premiums, legal defense, lost reputation, and lost business.

4. How long does ransomware recovery take?

When a company’s systems and data are compromised, and operations come to a halt, the consequences are felt across the organization. Ransomware recovery can take anywhere from a few days, if you’re well prepared, or up to six months or longer. 


About Molly Clancy

Molly Clancy is a content writer who specializes in explaining tech concepts in an easy, approachable way. With more than 15 years of experience, she has a broad background in industries ranging from B2B tech to engineering to luxury travel. A deep curiosity drives her repeated success explaining what terms like OS kernel and preflight request mean so that anyone can understand them.