As the world struggles to tame the massive "WannaCrypt" attack, ransomware has emerged as the most dangerous cyber threat for both organisations and individuals in recent months, with global losses now likely running into hundreds of millions of dollars.
Ransomware is a malicious software that locks a connected device, such as a computer, tablet or smartphone and then demands a ransom to unlock it.
According to Norton by Symantec, one of the global leaders in cyber security software, there was a 36 per cent increase in the ransomware attacks in 2016 and the ransomware families have grown three times -- from 30 in 2014 to 101 in 2016.
"In 2016, we identified over 100 new malware families released into the wild, more than triple the amount seen previously, and a 36 per cent increase in ransomware attacks worldwide," Tarun Kaura, Director, Solutions Product Management, Asia Pacific & Japan, Symantec told IANS.
India alone faces 4 per cent of the total ransomware attacks while the US is most affected, with 34 per cent of the ransomware attacks globally.
India has been ranked fifth in terms of global threat rank by destination, with 3.8 per cent global threat detection.
"Over 180 Indian companies were victims of 'ransomware' -- or online extortion schemes -- in the first six months of 2016," said Trend Micro Incorporated, a global leader in security software and solutions.
While most major ransomware groups tend to be indiscriminate in their attacks, consumers are often less likely to have robust security in place, increasing the possibility of falling victim.
"The average ransom demanded globally by attackers also saw an upward spike this year. The average ransom demanded to date in 2016 more than doubled from Rs 19,670 in 2015 to Rs. 45,428," a recent Norton by Symantec study highlighted.
"WannaCrypt" -- the ransomware malware used in Friday's massive cyber attack -- has the ability to spread itself within corporate networks, without user interaction, by exploiting a known vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.
Computers which do not have the latest Windows security updates are at the risk of infection.