Ransomware hits Europe's industrial control systems and operating technology as frequently as IT systems

Sicherheit (Pexels, allgemeine Nutzung)[German]Interesting findings from a survey of 1,100 security specialists as part of a study with regard to the security of industrial systems and critical infrastructure in Europe. The message of the study was that industrial control systems and operating technology in Europe were attacked by ransomware almost as frequently as IT systems. One in two victims experienced significant disruption as a result of these attacks.


Digital transformation has also accelerated in the critical infrastructure sector since the onset of the Corona pandemic: Most significantly in Asia Pacific (at 90.4% of respondents), least so in Europe (at 82.3% of companies). Yet the trend toward remote work will continue: Globally, 73 percent of companies plan to continue working remotely to some extent in the foreseeable future, and as many as 80 percent in Europe.

However, it is also becoming apparent that ransomware is also increasingly becoming a problem for industrial plants and critical infrastructure. A full 80 percent of CRITIS operators and companies that contribute significantly to critical infrastructure surveyed were victims of a ransomware attack in 2021 last year. To that end, security specialist Claroty initiated a study, The Global State of Industrial Cybersecurity 2021: Resilience Amid Disruption. A total of 1,100 security specialists were surveyed as part of the study.

While globally these attacks hit IT systems in particular much more frequently (32.4%) and operational technology (OT) and industrial control systems (ICS) much less frequently (20.3%), the difference is much smaller in Europe, where 27 percent of ransomware attacks affected IT systems exclusively and 23 percent affected OT/ICS systems exclusively. In just under a quarter (23.3%), both areas were disrupted (globally: 27.1%). Overall, therefore, almost every second attack also affects OT/ICS.

More than 90 percent of attacked companies notified their shareholders and/or regulators of the incident and reported that the impact was significant or substantial in nearly half of the cases (49%). Also significant is the financial impact of an attack, with just over half (50.3%) of respondents quantifying that business interruption as a result of an attack would cost them between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in revenue per hour. This may also explain the relatively high willingness to respond to ransomware demands. Globally, 62.1 percent of companies paid up, and as many as 76.4 percent in the U.S., but only 46.8 percent in Europe. In most cases, the ransom was between $100,000 and $500,000 (32.1%) or between $500,000 and $1,000,000 (30.5%).

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