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Ransomware: How hackers make you pay

For many hackers, the most difficult step isn’t stealing the data but rather finding someone to sell it to. They may be able to take legal documents and family photos off your desktop easily enough, but who’s going to buy those files? Well, you are.

With ransomware, a form of malware that holds your computer data hostage, hackers are making you the customer.

The ransomware model has proven to be devastatingly efficient, especially when hackers target businesses. A study by IBM showed that 70 percent of businesses hit with ransomware ended up paying the ransom. Of those who paid, 50 percent paid more than $10,000 and 20 percent paid more than $40,000. About 40 percent of companies in the U.K. with over 250 employees have even started stockpiling bitcoin to prepare for a possible attack.

Declared a billion-dollar industry by the FBI in 2016, ransomware has continued to make waves with last month’s WannaCry attacks and this week’s hacks in Europe. Experts recommend backing up files and updating systems, but as long as people continue to pay their hackers, ransomware attacks aren’t likely to slow down.