SAN FRANCISCO — Hackers are discovering that it is far more profitable to hold your data hostage than it is to steal it.
A decade-old internet scourge called ransomware went mainstream on Friday when cybercriminals seized control of computers around the world, from the delivery giant FedEx in the United States to Britain’s public health system, universities in China and even Russia’s powerful Interior Ministry.
Ransomware is nothing new. For years, there have been stories of individuals or companies horrified that they have been locked out of their computers and that the only way back in is to pay a ransom to someone, somewhere who has managed to take control.
You don’t even need to have any skills to do this anymore,” said Jason Rebholz, a senior director at the Crypsis Group who has helped dozens of victims of ransomware.
Ransomware has allowed people who are not computer experts to become computer thieves. It used to be that hackers had to be a little creative and skilled to get money out of people. There were fake antivirus scams that promised to clean up your computer — for a fee.