The landscape of ransomware attacks is changing. When the malicious software first hit the internet a couple years back, it did so in a big way, primarily targeting large hospitals, insurance companies or other health-related businesses. These high-profile attacks temporarily paralyzed a number of companies, many of whom opted to simply pay the ransom to get their files back instead of wrestling with backup systems.

While those companies are still being targeted, this year, for the first time ever, hackers are beginning to go after individual targets with the software with devastating impact.
While it’s true that the payday for locking an individual user’s PC or smartphone is orders of magnitude smaller than a large corporation, the reality is that individuals are woefully unprepared for such an attack. They are much more likely to pay the toll to regain access to their files.

The security company Trustlook recently conducted a detailed survey of individuals and found that a staggering 45 percent of consumers didn’t even know what ransomware was, and even after they found out, a similar percentage said they weren’t worried about such an attack on their PC or phone.

To compound the problem, fully one quarter of individual users don’t make any sort of backup of either their PC or their smart devices. This means that if they are hit with a ransomware attack, literally their only chance of getting their files back is to just pay the fine and hope for the best, which is why a surprisingly high percentage of impacted individual users (38 percent) do exactly that.

There are a couple of important lessons to be learned from these statistics. First and foremost, if you don’t currently have a backup plan in place for your home PC or smartphone, you should probably make one, starting now.

Secondly, given the relatively high payout rate the hackers are seeing, this isn’t a problem that’s going to go away. Until individual users begin taking steps to better defend themselves and their personal data, hackers are going to keep going after them because they’re soft targets. Don’t be a soft target.

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