The number of victims reporting ransomware attacks has nearly doubled in a year, and the reported loss to victims nearly tripled, according to an FBI report based on information provided by the public.
"In 2015, the IC3 [Internet Crime Complaint Center] received 2,453 complaints identified as Ransomware with losses of over $1.6 million," the document reads.
Since 2000 the IC3, which is part of the FBI, has aggregated complaints it receives around cybercrime, including intellectual property rights, hacking, and economic espionage.
Ransomware is a type of malware typically delivered by a phishing email or malvertising, which locks down a victims' files and then demands a hefty bounty in bitcoin to unlock them.
In 2014, the IC3 received 1,402 reports of ransomware, and losses of $490,577, but in 2015 that nearly doubled. Ransomware was still less commonly reported than things such as more general malware, phishing, and identity theft. The 2012 report was the first to mention ransomware, but a breakdown of figures was not included.
Note, however, that these figures only represent cases that have been reported by the public to the IC3. Certainly many other ransomware cases will have occurred over the past year. Additionally, the vast majority—some 80 percent—of the IC3's complaints come from people in the US so the global number will undoubtedly be much higher. Cybersecurity company Kaspersky says that in 2015 it saw 179,209 computers infected with ransomware.
Many different brands of ransomware have steadily developed over the years, with some deploying pretty nasty techniques to convince their victims to pay up, such as threatening to publish private photos. Over the last few months hackers have hit hospitals with ransomware, and government systems have also been affected.
According to the report, despite ransomware's growth it is still lagging behind the much more profitable and established trades of, for example, romance scams, where someone tricks a victim into sending payments by gaining their confidence.
In 2015, the total loss amount of those type of scams was $203,390,531, the report reads.