According to U.S. government statistics, ransomware has increased 300 percent within the past year. Daily ransomware attacks increased from 1,000 to 4,000 between 2015 and 2016, and the number of attacks is not expected to diminish in the future.

Ransomware is a form of malware that steals valuable data from a user and will only return the information when the hacker has received some form of monetary ransom. IBM reports nearly 40 percent of spam emails in 2016 contained ransomware, and more than $209 million has been spent in ransomware payments this year alone.

Common ransomware threats include encrypting sensitive files and/or locking complete access to a laptop, desktop or mobile device. Hackers then contact the device or information owner with instructions to pay the ransom, which IBM reports averages between $200 and $10,000.

While paying hackers may seem like the easiest solution to ransomware, the government encourages users to hold off on payment and contact law enforcement. Users are not guaranteed access to their files upon payment, and submitting to hackers’ demands only encourages extortion of other Internet users down the road.

If users are targeted by ransomware, the government provides a variety of resources to mitigate information loss and further security issues. Learn more about ransomware support here.