The number of cyber attacks using the infamous Reveton ransomware doubled over the past year, according to Microsoft.
In a blog post about Microsoft Trustworthy Computing's (TwC's) Security Intelligence Report Volume 16 July through December, 2013 research paper, TwC director Tim Rains said the attacks tended to appear in frenzied waves targeting specific regions.
"Between the first and second halves of 2013, the top ransomware threat encountered globally [Reveton] increased by 45 percent," Rains writes.
"The data suggests that ransomware threats are typically geographically concentrated for periods of time. For cybercriminals looking to make a quick buck, this is an increasingly alluring tactic."
The rise in Reveton ransomware comes despite the arrest of one of its creators early in 2013, underlining the difficulties in stopping criminals from using tools designed for nefarious purposes.
Ransomware is a particularly dangerous form of malware that locks infected machines to a static screen. The attackers usually demand payment from the victim to have the machine unlocked.
The report said most of the ransomware attacks took place in Europe, western Asia and "affluent English-speaking" areas of North America and Oceania.
According to the report, between 0.4 and 0.6 percent of all UK Windows computers were targeted by ransomware at the end of 2013. The figure puts the UK on a par with most other Western European countries, which on average suffered between a 0.2 and 0.6 percent encounter rate.
Rains said the increased ransomware levels come as hackers continue to adapt their attack strategies.
"In more than 95 percent of the 110 countries/regions we studied, deceptive downloads were a top threat. Cybercriminals are secretly bundling malicious items with legitimate content such as software, games or music," he said.
It is currently unclear exactly how many attacks Microsoft detected during the period and at the time of publishing the company had not responded to V3's request for comment. Reports from security vendors suggest global ransomware attacks number in the hundreds of thousands.
Security firm McAfee reported detecting 320,000 new ransomware attacks in Q2 2013 in August last year. Europol's European Cybercrime Centre also reported detecting a massive increase in ransomware attacks levels in February.