Cyber-criminals are using advances in technology to cripple small business computer systems in order to extort money.

Symantec’s latest internet threat security report has found a 500% jump in increasingly sophisticated ransomware attacks.

The most alarming increase has been in the sub-category known as ransomcrypt.

“[This] is designed to encrypt a user’s files and request a ransom for the files to be unencrypted,” the report states.

“This threat causes even more damage to businesses where not only the victims’ files are encrypted but also files on shared or attached network drives. Prevention and backup are critical to protecting users from this type of attack.”

The ransoms demanded generally range between $100 and $500, and research indicates about 3% of victims pay the fine, creating a lucrative business model for cyber-criminals.

The report highlights the need for brokers to ensure that small businesses are adequately protected from security breaches, especially if the files are linked to attached network drives.

The Symantec report also highlighted an expected surge in cyber attacks on smart phones.

Recent amendments to Australia’s privacy laws substantially tightened regulations around business cyber security. To find out more, click here.