Organisations are increasingly being targeted by ransomware and more often than not pay the ransom to regain control of their data.
New research from Symantec reveals that infection numbers jumped to 56,000 in March 2016, roughly double the normal rate, and the average ransom demanded by attackers more than double, rising to $US679 (£525) from $US294 (£223) at the end of 2015.
All except one of the new ransomware variants discovered so far this year were crypto-ransomware, compared with around 80 percent last year.
The US continues to be the country most affected by ransomware, accounting for 31 percent of global infections. Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Canada, Belgium, India and Australia round out the top 10.
Most victims continue to be consumers (57 percent) but there are indications of a slow but steady increase in ransomware attacks aimed at organisations rather than individuals. The most affected business sector was service (38 percent), followed by manufacturing (17 percent) and finance, insurance, real estate and public administration (10 percent).
Symantec offers the following tips to protect against ransomware:
Always keep your security software up to date
Keep your operating system and other software updated. Updates will often include patches for newly discovered vulnerabilities.
Delete any suspicious-looking email you receive, especially if they contain links or attachments.
Be very wary of any Microsoft Office email attachment that advises you to enable macros to view its content. Don't enable macros unless you are absolutely sure the email is genuine and came from a trusted source.
Back up important data so you can restore files once an infection has been cleaned up.