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Crooks Can Make 1,425% Profit By Holding Your Computer Hostage

by Keith Wagstaff /

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On the Internet, crime can pay — as long as crooks are willing to make a small investment.

A study released Tuesday by security firm Trustwave found that cyber-criminals could see returns of 1,425 percent on a purchase of a $5,900 ransomware kit.

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That comes out to $84,000 in net revenue. The report's authors said that they had "arguably chosen conservative figures for this exercise" and that there was "nothing stopping a criminal from simultaneously managing several campaigns."

With those kind of profits, it's no wonder that there was a 165 percent increase in ransomware attacks in the first three months of 2015, according to a recent report from McAfee Labs.

What is ransomware? It's malware that takes a computer hostage and demands payment to release it.

The rise of virtual currencies like Bitcoin and networks that disguise a computer user's identity like Tor are making it harder to track people who launch these kinds of attacks, the McAfee report said.

Related: Ransomware Takes Your Computer Hostage: Here is How to Defend Against It

Ransomware usually comes in the form of emails with links or attachments that infect the victim's computer, later presenting them with a message telling them to pay up or lose access to their files forever.

 A pop-up window from CTB-Locker, a piece of ransomware that has been especially active in 2015. McAfee

Ransomware attacks are successful around 10 percent of the time, according to Trustwave, with 0.5 percent of victims actually paying the ransom.

That might not seem like a lot. But with an average payout of around $300, it can add up to a small fortune over time.

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