Ransomware attacks continue to be a persistent threat to organisations worldwide. One of the most significant impacts of ransomware attacks is the stress and anxiety they cause among staff. Working on a ransomware incident can lead to sleep deprivation, guilt, shame, fear, and even suicidal thoughts. The psychological impact of ransomware attacks can be severe and long-lasting.

Recent research by RUSI explored the full scope of the harm caused by ransomware, using a framework that distinguishes between three levels of impact:

  • First-order harms: These are the direct effects on the targeted organisation and its staff, such as financial losses, operational disruption, reputational damage, and psychological distress.
  • Second-order harms: These are the indirect effects on anyone connected to the targeted organisation, such as suppliers, customers, patients, students, and families.
  • Third-order harms: These are the wider societal and national security implications, such as eroded trust in institutions, normalized cybercrime, and strategic advantages for hostile states.

RUSI’s research highlights the human toll of ransomware, especially on the IT and cyber security professionals who work on the front lines of these incidents.

Source: RUSI

They face immense pressure, stress, anxiety, and burnout, which can have long-lasting impacts on their mental and physical health, as well as their careers and families. CyberSolace would add that the resulting stress can also trigger negative behaviours, causing friction between senior management and staff. Which can significantly hamper response efforts, leading to slower resolution times, reduced productivity, and even complete stallouts. These ripple effects ultimately exacerbate the overall impact on the business.

Furthermore, RUSI’s research surprisingly reveals that data leaks, a common fear among ransomware victims, are not currently being systematically exploited for further cybercrimes. This finding could help victims make better decisions about whether or not to pay ransom demands.

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