Ars Technica – (International) Mushrooming ransomware now extorts $5 million a year. Malware that disables computers and demands that hefty cash payments be paid to purported law-enforcement agencies before the machines are restored is extorting as much as $5 million from end-user victims, researchers said. The estimate, contained in a report published November 8 by researchers from antivirus provider Symantec, is being fueled by the mushrooming growth of so-called ransomware. Once infected, computers become unusable and often display logos of local law-enforcement agencies, along with warnings that the user has violated statutes involving child pornography or other serious offenses. The warnings then offer to unlock the computers if users pay a fine as high as $200 within 72 hours. The report identified at least 16 different ransomware versions spawned by competing malware gangs. Many are completely different families of malware, rather than multiple variants of the same family, and most have their own unique behavior.