IMAGINE a hacker stealing your personal information or taking over your computer and holding it ransom until you deliver them a requested amount of money.

This is the harsh reality many Australians will face next year with the growing cybersecurity threat known as ransomware gaining momentum.

The warning comes as part of Intel Security’s 2016 Threat Predictions report, which reflects the insights of 33 cyber security leaders from within the company.

Intel Security’s APAC Chief Technology Officer Mike Sentonas said ransomware demonstrated the changing nature of attacks and the fact they are becoming more personal.

“We are starting to see examples where the attackers are threatening to publicly release the information they encrypt, which can have dire professional and personal consequences,” he told

“If you think back to the Ashley Madison hacks earlier this year, they are a clear example.”

Mr Sentonas said in addition to threats of releasing private information; cyber criminals will be using ransomware to take control of computer systems, only releasing them once the requested payment has been made.

“There will be a focus on industry sectors including financials and local government, which will quickly pay ransoms to restore their critical operations,” the report reads.

While computers operating on Windows have generally been considered the most vulnerable to attacks, Mr Sentonas expects a shift as attacks become more advanced.

“Most people don’t think they have issues with mobile devices as they are still emerging, but we expect this to change in the future,” he said.

“We also expect ransomware to start targeting Mac OSX in 2016 due to its growing popularity.”

In terms of protection, Mr Sentonas said it all comes down to common sense.

“Don’t put anything online that you don’t want captured because it can be used against you,” he said.


By Adam