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One in three SMEs in Singapore hit by ransomware

Nearly one-fifth of small businesses in the city-state targeted by ransomware last year had to shut down their business operations

More than a third of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore were hit by ransomware attacks last year, and nearly one-fifth of these had to shut down their business operations because of the attacks.

Also, 61% of the Singapore SMEs that were hit by ransomware attacks suffered downtime of more than nine hours – the equivalent of a full working day.

For about one in six organisations, a ransomware infection caused 25 or more hours of downtime, and some reported that it caused systems to be down for more than 100 hours.

These were some of the findings from a study by Osterman Research on behalf of security software supplier Malwarebytes, which noted that SMEs in Singapore continue to be plagued by ransomware.

“Businesses of all sizes are increasingly at risk of ransomware attacks,” said Jeff Hurmuses, managing director and area vice-president of Malwarebytes in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

“However, the stakes for a single attack on a small business are far different from the stakes for a single attack on a large enterprise. Osterman’s findings demonstrate that SMEs are suffering in the wake of attacks, to the point where some must cease business operations.”

According to the study, more than half (53%) of the cyber criminals who hit Singapore SMEs with ransomware demanded payments of less than $1,000, with only 7% asking for more than $10,000.

Most SMEs in Singapore (62%) thought ransomware demands should never be paid, and the rest said ransoms should be paid only if the encrypted data was of value. Among those that chose not to pay a ransom, about one-third (33%) lost their files.

For many, the source of the ransomware was unknown and infections spread quickly. For 30% of the SMEs in Singapore that suffered an attack, decision-makers could not identify how their devices had become infected. Notably, more than 20% of ransomware infections spread to other devices.

Read more about ransomware

  • WannaCry’s spread in Asia-Pacific accounted for just 10% of detections worldwide, indicating the ransomware’s limited reach in the region.
  • Ransomware attacks highlight system-wide issues around lack of infrastructure investment and the need for cyber security training and awareness.
  • Ransomware and IoT-enabled attacks are expected to continue, while 2017 will see the rise of data integrity attacks, targeting of cloud infrastructure and the use of AI by attackers.
  • The best way to protect against ransomware is to have up-to-date in-house backups and to ensure cloud backups are adequately protected and available.

Malwarebytes warned that not knowing how a ransomware infection starts not only makes it difficult to remove malware, it could also make it hard to identify gaps in a company’s cyber security.

Most SMEs said addressing ransomware was a high priority, but they still lacked confidence in their ability to deal with it.

Of the Singapore SMEs surveyed, 73% put a high or very high priority on addressing the ransomware problem. But despite these investments, only one in 10 were confident of stopping ransomware attacks.

Current investments in technology might not be enough. About one-quarter of SMEs in Singapore claimed to have been running anti-ransomware technologies, but 35% had experienced a ransomware attack.

“It’s clear from these findings that there is widespread awareness of the threat of ransomware among businesses, but many are not yet confident in their ability to deal with it,” said Hurmuses. “Companies of all sizes need to remain vigilant and continue to place a higher priority on protecting themselves against ransomware.”

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