Ransomware continued to grow last year, with more than 100 new malware families released into the wild — more than triple the amount seen previously — and a 36% increase in ransomware attacks worldwide, according to Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report released Wednesday.
Ransomware also became more profitable. The size of ransoms jumped 266% last year, with criminals demanding an average of $1,077 per victim, up from $294 in 2015. More than 60% of Americans hit with ransomware paid their ransom, according to the study.
While the high value of attacks increased, there was also a jump in cyberattacks focused on political manipulation and sabotage, Symantec said. The research noted the "subversion and sabotage" of many attacks that were politically motivated to undermine new, political targets.
Last year, the FBI warned businesses that paying ransoms would only encourage more cybercriminals to launch ransomware attacks. Now it appears that projection is coming true. Ransoms are getting higher because more companies are willing to pay them.
The ROI for cybercriminals makes it too good to pass up. Ransomware is a low-energy form of attack, and forces organizations to scramble resources together to unlock proprietary information. In January, NBC News, citing figures from the FBI, said ransomware payments were expected to reach $1 billion in 2016. That’s up from $24 million in 2015.
Rather than pay a ransom, experts suggest businesses focus on protecting themselves from the growing threat. Complete, regular backups can enable companies to ignore pleas for ransom rather than give into them.