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Two in five Brits cough up for CryptoLocker ransomware's demands

Cowed victims hand over thousands rather than install basic security measures

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Around two in five people who fall victim to CryptoLocker have agreed to pay a ransom of around £300 to recover their files, according to a survey of victims.

Researchers from the University of Kent quizzed a total of 48 people who had been affected by CryptoLocker. Of the sample, 17 said they paid the ransom and 31 said they did not.

CryptoLocker encrypts files on compromised machines. Compromised files become unintelligible and unrecoverable - unless victims have made back-ups - without paying crooks an unlock fee, which skyrockets to as much as four Bitcoins (about £1,350) unless victims cough up within a 72 hour deadline.

The finding comes from the second survey (PDF) on Cyber Security by members of the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Cyber Security. The "fieldwork" for the online study involved polling a sample of 1,500 adult Brits of various ages on eight cybercrime and information security-related questions.

The researchers found that ransomware equates to approximately one in every 30 malware cases; much higher than previous estimates have suggested.

Other findings include that more than a quarter (28.2 per cent) of respondents in the survey claim not to engage in any security practices online, such as using antivirus software, firewalls, or password management tools.

The cybercrime-focused survey found online security practices in Scotland to be better than in the rest of the UK. And women take fewer risks online and generally adopt better security practices, such as regularly changing their passwords, than their male counterparts.

The survey also found that almost one in thirty (2.9%) people say they had been a victim of online bullying or harassment, whilst similar numbers had been victims of online stalking (2.3 per cent).

Dr Eerke Boiten, director of the University's Cybercrime Centre, said: “From the small fraction of victims who have reported cybercrimes in the recommended way, through ActionFraud or the Police, we can conclude that official records are significantly underestimating the extent of cybercrime in the UK.”

The first survey, released in August 2013, revealed almost one in five people (18.4 per cent) in the UK had their online accounts hacked, with some people (2.3%) losing more than £10,000 due to criminal activity.

Kent's interdisciplinary research centre includes researchers from the university’s sciences and social sciences faculties, and is led by the university’s School of Computing. ®

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