Antivirus company Symantec released its annual threat report Wednesday. The report covered a wide range of issues, including the vulnerability of internet-of-things devices, and revealed an important fact — globally,  Americans are most likely targets of ransomware, and are most likely to pay when digitally extorted.

Ransomware is software that allows hackers to go through your data, encrypt it and then extort you in exchange for providing access to the data.   

Read: Failing To Protect 'Internet Of Things' Data Is Big Threat To Tech, Says Symantec

“New sophistication and innovation are the nature of the threat landscape, but this year Symantec has identified seismic shifts in motivation and focus. The world saw specific nation states double down on political manipulation and straight sabotage. Meanwhile, cyber criminals caused unprecedented levels of disruption by focusing their exploits on relatively simple IT tools and cloud services,” Tarun Kaura, Symantec's director for solution product management for Asian Pacific & Japan, Symantec, said.  

Even though ransomware is now a global menace, Symantec’s report states that Americans are most likely to cave in to ransomware demands. According to the report, “around 100 new malware families have been released in the wild,” which essentially means that you might just receive a email asking you to download a software and as soon as this software is downloaded to your system, your system will be locked using encryption. This marks a 36 percent release in ransomware year-on-year for the financial year 2016.

Americans are around twice as likely to pay ransom for their information as compared to the global average. Their willingness to pay ransom has led to average ransom increasing 266 percent year-on-year, with criminals asking for $1,077 ransom per victim on average in 2016 as compared to just $294 for the previous year.

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The report also highlights that email has now become the weapon of choice for hackers and most hackers are basically going for simple tools to hack into your system. It is therefore advisable to follow these tips:

  • Be careful while opening emails, always verify the source URL
  • Be careful with your passwords
  • Always have a backup of your system — since you will already have most of the files you need, you might not be willing to pay ransom