Ransomware Payments Hit New Records in 2021 as Dark Web Leaks Climbed, According to New Report from Palo Alto Networks Unit 42

2 mins read

DigitalCFO Newsroom | 25 March 2022

Average ransom demand rose 144% to $2.2 million.
Average payment rose 78% percent to $541,010. 
Posts on name-and-shame Dark Web leak sites climbed 85%.

Ransomware payments hit new records in 2021 as cybercriminals increasingly turned to Dark Web “leak sites” where they pressured victims to pay up by threatening to release sensitive data, according to research released today from Unit 42 by Palo Alto Networks (NASDAQ: PANW), the global cybersecurity leader. 

The average ransom demand in cases worked by the Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 security consultants rose 144% in 2021 to $2.2 million, while the average payment climbed 78% to $541,010, according to The 2022 Unit 42 Ransomware Threat Report.

“In 2021, ransomware attacks interfered with everyday activities that people all over the world take for granted – everything from buying groceries, purchasing gasoline for our cars to calling 911 in the event of an emergency and obtaining medical care,” said Jen Miller-Osborn, deputy director, Unit 42 Threat Intelligence.

The Conti ransomware group was responsible for the most activity, accounting for more than 1 in 5 of cases worked by Unit 42 consultants in 2021. REvil, also known as Sodinokibi, was No. 2  at 7.1%, followed by Hello Kitty and Phobos (4.8% each). Conti also posted the names of 511 organizations on its Dark Web leak site, the most of any group. 

The report describes how the cyber extortion ecosystem grew in 2021, with the emergence of 35 new ransomware gangs. It documents how criminal enterprises invested windfall profits into creating tools that are easier to use in attacks that increasingly leverage zero-day vulnerabilities. 

The number of victims whose data was posted on leak sites rose 85% in 2021 to 2,566 organizations, according to Unit 42’s analysis. 60% of leak site victims were in the Americas, followed by 31% for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and then 9% in the Asia-Pacific region. The most affected industries were Professional and Legal Services, Construction, Wholesale and Retail, Healthcare, and Manufacturing. 

Detailed commentary, analysis and breakdowns on activity by region, industry and ransomware groups are available in the  2022 Unit 42 Ransomware Threat Report, which can be downloaded on the Palo Alto Networks Website. A summary of the report is available on the Unit 42 blog.