Cyberattacks involving ransomware, in which criminals usemalicious software to encrypt a users' data and then extort moneyto unencrypt it, increased 50% in 2016, according to a report fromVerizon Communications Inc.

And criminals increasingly shifted from going after individualconsumers to attacking vulnerable organizations and businesses, thereport said. Government organizations were the most frequent targetof these ransomware attacks, followed by health-care businesses andfinancial services, according to data from security company McAfeeInc., which partnered with Verizon on the report published lastThursday.

Instances of ransomware attacks have grown along with the marketfor bitcoin, the digital currency that is most commonly howcybercriminals demand ransoms be paid because of its anonymity.

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