Ransomware infections in April 2016 more than doubled the total from March 2016.
And that ransomware made up a larger percentage of overall infections in April than in any other month in the last three years.
That's according to data released this week by Enigma Software.
The experts at Enigma looked at more than 65 million malware infections detected by its software in the US since April 2013.
Generally, ransomware infections threaten computer users with destruction of data if they don’t pay a ransom to the crooks who created the infections.
Several high profile cases of ransomware have made national and international headlines in the last few weeks as infections have hit hospitals, school districts, and other government offices.
"It’s not just businesses that are being hit by ransomware," said Enigma Software spokesperson Ryan Gerding.
"Every day thousands and thousands of people turn on their personal computers only to find their most precious photos and other files have been locked up by bad guys."
Enigma Software Group reports that after staying steady for the last six months of 2015, the number of ransomware infections began to climb in 2016.
February saw a 19.37% increase over January. March had a 9.46% increase over February.
And now April infections have more than doubled those in March with a spike of 158.87%, the third biggest month to month spike on record.
Gerding says the best defense against ransomware is a three-pronged approach:
- Regularly back up your data to an external device or to the cloud. That way, if you do get a ransomware infection, you can simply restore your data to the last time you saved it rather than paying the ransom or losing the files altogether.
- Make sure all of your operating system and anti-virus/anti-malware programs are set to update automatically
- Think about that link. Almost all of the ransomware infections attacking individual computers come because someone got tricked into clicking on a link: either in a bogus email, a hijacked social media account, or somewhere else online.
In fact, for every ransomware infection detected by in April, there were 133 non-ransomware infections.
Those infections range from rogue anti-spyware programs that steal money by pretending to be legitimate anti-spyware programs to adware that slows down computers and hijacks web browsers.