Cybercriminals earned significantly less from ransomware attacks in 2022 compared to 2021 as victims are increasingly refusing to pay ransom demands, according to data from Chainalysis.
A report published by the blockchain data company on Thursday shows that the cryptocurrency addresses known to have been used by ransomware groups received a total of $457 million last year, compared to $766 million in 2021, which represents a drop of more than 40%.
While Chainalysis may not be aware of all addresses used by these cybercrime gangs, it’s clear that ransomware profits have significantly decreased.
On the other hand, the volume of attacks does not seem to have dropped, with thousands of companies being targeted last year and tens of thousands of malware strains used in attacks.
According to data from Coveware, a company that helps organizations respond to ransomware attacks, the percentage of companies that paid up in 2022 dropped to 41%, from 50% in 2021 and 70% in 2020.
There are likely multiple factors that have resulted in fewer companies giving in to the cybercriminals’ extortion demands. One is that in many cases victims could risk violating sanctions if they pay up.
In recent years, after several cities and universities in the United States admitted paying significant ransoms to cybercriminals, the Treasury Department issued warnings to organizations facilitating ransomware payments — such as cyberinsurance companies, financial institutions, and providers of incident response — that they face legal action if the entities they pay are on sanctions lists.
In addition, cyberinsurance companies, which may have had to reimburse their customers for ransomware payments, have made some changes in terms of who they insure and what the insurance covers.
Data backups have also likely played an important role in the drop in ransomware payments. With ransomware attacks making many headlines in the past years, companies are increasingly backing up their data in case it’s encrypted by ransomware.
One noteworthy aspect is that there is a relatively small group of people that profits from ransomware attacks.
Chainalysis has pointed out that while there appears to be an increasing number of ransomware groups, in reality, the members of these groups likely overlap in many cases.
“We’ve seen time and time again that many affiliates carry out attacks for several different strains. So, while dozens of ransomware strains may technically have been active throughout 2022, many of the attacks attributed to those strains were likely carried out by the same affiliates,” the company noted.