WASHINGTON : $590 million in ransomware payments reported in the US in 2021.

New data out on Friday showed $590 million in ransomware-related payments were reported to US authorities in the first half of 2021, setting a pace to beat totals for the previous decade as cyber -extortion booms.

According to the US Treasury Department report, the figure is 42 percent higher than the amount reported by financial institutions for all of 2020.

''If current trends continue, [reports] filed in 2021 are projected to have a higher ransomware-related transaction value than [reports] filed in the previous 10 years combined,'' Treasury said.

The crime involves breaking into an entity's networks to encrypt its data, then demanding a ransom, typically paid via cryptocurrency in exchange for the for the digital key to unlock it.

Washington has sought to crack down on a sharp rise in attacks, including issuing its first sanctions against an online exchange where illicit operators have allegedly swapped cryptocurrency for cash.

Recent assault on a major US oil pipeline, a meat packing company and the Microsoft Exchange email system drew attention to the vulnerability of US infrastructure to digital pirates.

The report, based on the suspicious activity alerts that financial firms have to file, noted it was unclear if the jump represented increased awareness of the cybercrime.

'' This trend potentially reflects the increasing overall  prevalence of ransomware-related incidents as well as improved detection and reporting,'' Treasury said.

The victims of the attacks were not identified in the report, which noted some of the apparent ransoms were paid before January 2021. [AFP]


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