Spam emails loaded with ransomware — malware that scrambles data and demands a ransom to decode it — increased 6,000 percent this year compared with 2015, a new study from IBM Security found. Ransomware was in almost 40 percent of all spam messages in 2016.
The problem is, the business model works: 70 percent of business victims paid the hackers to get their data back, the study found. Of those who paid, 50 percent paid more than $10,000 and 20 percent paid more than $40,000.
Ransomware is on track to be a $1 billion business in 2016, despite the fact that the FBI recommends victims not pay their attackers but contact law enforcement instead.
In 2016 cybercriminals breached the systems of San Francisco's light rail network — which avoided paying because its systems were backed up — and a Hollywood hospital — which was forced to pay $17,000 in bitcoin to retrieve its data.