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Ransomware and Recovery Time: What You Should Expect

You might be wondering, how long do ransomware attacks last? If you're seeking answers to this question, we're about to uncover the answers in this blog post.

Ransomware incidents can be extremely disruptive. The scale and scope will vary depending on the target organization. Smaller companies with high levels of preparedness can often recover within a few days. Larger companies that are less prepared should plan to be down for weeks or even months. While the average attack disrupts for about 21 days, your preparedness and response plan affects this duration. We’ll cut through the complexity, offering a closer look at ransomware timelines and actionable advice without overwhelming detail or promises.

Key Takeaways

  • A ransomware attack lifecycle includes the initial breach, the encryption process, detection, containment and eradication, recovery (by paying ransom or from backups), and post-attack analysis.  all of which significantly impact the duration of the attack.
  • Whether you pay the ransom and manage to decrypt your original data or restore from backup, recovery can be a lengthy process.  They involve rebuilding systems, addressing security vulnerabilities, and regaining stakeholder trust, with recovery duration varying based on the attack’s complexity, scope, and the affected organization’s preparedness.

The Average Duration of a Ransomware Attack

Ransomware attacks are not just momentary disruptions; they are prolonged battles. Recent data indicates that recovery from ransomware is about 21 days.. This figure, however, doesn’t capture the life cycle and impact of the attack such as dwell time (the period from initial access to detonation) and business disruption, which could include significant loss of customer trust.  

The protracted nature of these attacks highlights the importance of having a robust ransomware recovery plan. The sooner an organization can recover their files and restore normal operations, the lesser the impact on their business. A well-executed ransomware attack recovery plan can significantly shorten the recovery and minimize disruptions.

Dissecting the Ransomware Lifecycle

A ransomware attack is not a singular event; it’s a process. Gaining insight into its duration requires a thorough examination of its lifecycle. A typical ransomware attack involves multiple stages: the initial breach and encryption phase, the discovery and eradication phase, recovery and analysis. . A closer examination of each stage will shed light on their role in determining the full impact of a ransomware attack.

Initial Breach and Encryption Phase

The ransomware attack commences with the crucial initial breach. . This is when the attacker infiltrates the victim’s systems. IBM Security’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report reports that the average dwell time for malware is over 200 days. Many of these initial breaches are created and then sold off to the highest bidder by Initial Access Brokers (IABs). The undetected presence enables the attacker to surveille and spread so it can maximize the impact of the attack.  

The attacker can pick the time to execute their plan. This typically happens during evening or early mornings to help delay detection thereby increasing its scope. If not properly safeguarded, the target’s data is also exfiltrated before it is encrypted with the ransomware. This data is then used as part of an extortion play to place additional leverage on the victim to pay up. 

 Ransomware can encrypt 100,000 files in just minutes or less, enabling it to very efficiently disable operations. . The rapid pace underscores the importance of having robust security measures in place. Early detection can significantly help to contain the attack and minimize its impact. 

Detection, Containment, and Eradication Efforts

A ransomware attack reaches a pivotal stage during the detection and containment phase. This is when the victim identifies the attack, evaluates its impact, and implements containment measures to prevent further damage. The duration of this phase, is influenced by the effectiveness of the victim’s detection mechanisms, their ability to quickly isolate infected systems, and the availability of skilled IT personnel to deploy additional mitigations. 

Modern detection tools on the endpoints and in the SoC, can significantly reduce mean time to identify (MTTI) . Similarly, having an efficient IT team in place can expedite containment and remediation efforts, thereby reducing the duration of an active ransomware attack.

The Recovery  Process

The process of recovery after a ransomware attack is akin to recovering from a storm. It’s a process that involves restoring encrypted data, resuming normal operations, and rebuilding trust with customers and partners. 

While not recommended, sometimes paying the ransom can be the best option to recovery encrypted data.  However negotiating with the attacker in a successful ransomware attack can turn into a complicated and protracted affair. This is when the victim, often through a ransomware negotiation service, engages with the attacker to discuss the ransom demand and potential data recovery options. The typical duration of the negotiation process in a ransomware attack is approximately 8-10 days. Even if the attacker provides the decryption keys after the ransom is paid, this does not mean that recovery will be straightforward. The data decryption process will likely not restore data exactly the way it was before the attack. This can include file names, structures, and other aspects that will need to be repaired. This needs to be accounted for, especially when deciding to whether or not to pay the ransom.   


Enterprise data backup and recovery solutions have become very efficient. These systems can help victims avoid paying ransoms (this is why attackers also leverage extortion). The duration of the recovery process from backup can vary significantly, depending on multiple factors including the timeliness of the response, the effectiveness of the recovery plan, the complexity and severity of the attack, and the availability of backups for data restoration. 

When restoring from backups, it is important to identify a restoration point pre-infection and to initially restore into a sandbox environment so that these efforts do not reintroduce the ransomware into production environments. These factors need to be considered as they can add more time to the recovery process. 

Post Attack Analysis 

After systems are fully recovered, there is still work to do. A security audit should be conducted to identify weaknesses that contributed to the successful attack. The audit should include, at a minimum, a review of policies, security controls and configurations, endpoint protections, employee security awareness training, and the effectiveness of the data recovery plan. Review of these aspects can identify areas for improvement and help the organization to recover from a ransomware attack more effectively and build improved resilience against future cybersecurity threats. 

Cigent Technologies: Fortifying Defenses Against Ransomware

With the evolution of ransomware attacks, our defenses too must adapt and improve. This is Cigent plays a crucial role. Specializing in endpoint data security and protection, Cigent helps organizations prevent ransomware, data theft, and extortion, and achieve compliance. Cigent offers advanced ransomware protection solutions that fortify data defenses and minimize the impact of attacks that manage to bypass existing security controls.

Cigent ransomware protection solutions encompass:

  • Self-protecting data that stops ransomware before it can do damage Step-up  authentication for protected endpoint data access
  • Data layer enforcement of zero-trust principles 
  • Cigent safeguards endpoint data not only from ransomware, but also from theft, unauthorized user access, cloning, and wiping. 

 Our solutions are effective in reducing the impact of attacks, making the a Cigent protected endpoint one of the safest places to store sensitive data. . Book a Cigent demo today!


In conclusion, understanding the duration of ransomware attacks and the factors that influence it can help businesses better prepare for these threats. By implementing robust security measures, regularly testing backup and recovery plans, and staying abreast of the latest ransomware variants, businesses can significantly reduce the duration and impact of potential ransomware attacks. Remember, in the fight against ransomware, preparation is key.

To partner with Cigent to stop ransomware contact us today. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Will you get your data back if you pay the ransom?

Paying the ransom in a ransomware attack does not guarantee that you will get the decryption key, and even with the key, most organizations cannot fully recover all of the data. 

How long does a cyber attack last?

A cyber attack can last from a few days to several months, with the average recovery time after a ransomware attack being around 22 days, but it can vary depending on factors such as encryption type and forensic investigation.

What is the dwell time for a ransomware attack?

The median dwell time for ransomware has decreased to under 24 hours in the past year, with some instances of ransomware being deployed within five hours of gaining initial access.

Does ransomware delete itself?

Once ransomware finishes encrypting files, it may delete itself, leaving only the encrypted files and ransom notes behind. It's important to use anti-malware/anti-ransomware tools to prevent and remove such threats.

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