India ranked fourth globally among the countries most affected by ransomware, a malicious software which attacks on computers, even as Hyderabad police said they may open a separate cell to trace such cases.


Ransomware encrypts files in a user's computer and blocks access until the user pays a certain sum of money.


Norton by Symantec, one of the global leaders in cyber security software, in its latest research, found that globally consumers are the most likely victims of ransomware, accounting for 57% of all infections between January 2015 and April 2016.


"Between January 2015 and April 2016, the US followed by Canada and Australia were the countries most affected by ransomware. Accounting for nine per cent of the total infections, India ranked fourth globally among the affected countries," the report said, adding India jumped up from 12th position in the world for ransomware infections in 2015 to fourth in just four months of 2016.


The research highlights that 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 ₹19,670 in 2015 to ₹45,428.


"Ransomware can vary from holding treasured family photos, hijacking unfinished manuscripts for novels, and blocking access to tax returns, banking records, and other valuable documents to ransom. Moreover, there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will release those padlocks," Norton by Symantec's Country Manager Ritesh Chopra told reporters here today.


Infection numbers are trending upwards, with the number of new ransomware families discovered annually reaching an all- time high of 100 last year. All but one of the new ransomware variants discovered in 2016 were crypto-ransomware, compared to around 80% last year.


Crypto-ransomware uses unbreakable encryption on the user's files. If the victim has no back-ups, paying the ransom is the only alternative, the report said.


Assistant Commissioner of Police, Cybercrime police station, K C S Raghuvir said ransomware is gradually increasing in Hyderabad also.


"We may open a separate cell to trace such ransomware cases," he added.