Americans, Romanians most willing to pay ransomware fees – but not for work files

Ransomware extortionists may find new reason to target Romanians and Americans after a multi-country survey found that Internet users in those countries are among the world's willing to pay up if they were hit by ransomware.

The Bitdefender report Ransomware: A Victim's Perspective, which surveyed just over 3000 Internet users from the US and five European countries, found that half couldn't explain what ransomware is and an equal proportion were willing to pay up to $US500 ($A700) to recover their data if it were rendered inaccessible by ransomware.

Fully 50 percent of American ransomware victims have paid the requested sum to free their money after being hit by ransomware, the survey found, while 48 percent of victims in Romania had paid up. British users were only slightly less sceptical, with 44 percent paying the ransom, while Germans (33 percent) and Danes (14 percent) were less willing to part with their hard-earned.

When asked what types of documents they would pay to recover, few said they would pony up to recover access to work-related documents; personal documents were the most-valued content, with photos a close second.

Romanians were most protective of personal documents, with 38 percent willing to pay and 28 percent saying they would prioritise personal photos. Romanians were the most protective of work documents, with 24 percent of respondents saying they would pay to release such documents from ransomware's clutches.

Danes prioritised the recovery of personal movies (8 percent) above the recovery of work documents. British users indicated they would pay up to €568 ($A887) to undo their ransomware lock, while Romanians maxed out at €132 ($A206).

The figures read like a how-to manual for ransomware scammers, who have often launched scattershot campaigns designed to ensnare as many users as possible. In recent years these campaigns have increasingly become targeted at countries where users are particularly susceptible – such as Australia, which last year became the world's most susceptible country to ransomware.

That susceptibility was increasing as new methods of Android ransomware threatened to expand the attack surface, the BitDefender report warned, noting that Google's new ProGuard developer tool – which enables the compression, optimisation and obfuscation of .apk application files – would make Android ransomware “a lot tougher to spot and analyze” in 2016.

This trend, paired with an intense focus on small businesses by ransomware purveyors, would see attacks stepped up against small and medium businesses (SMBs), as businesses “are far more likely to pay for data recovery than end users,” the report's authors noted.

Read more: US DoD targets 4m Windows 10 upgrades by 2017 to boost security

“Monetisation and profitability has always been the main focus of ransomware developers and in 2016 they'll probably reach stellar conversion rates.”

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Tags cybersecurityRomaniaDavid BraueAmericaransomwareprivacybitdefenderCSO Australia

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