Malware that holds data for ransom has been around for years. In 1991, a biologist spread PC Cyborg, the first ever ransomware, by sending floppy disks via surface mail to other AIDS researchers, for instance. In the mid '00s Archiveus was the first ransomware to use encryption, though it's long ago been defeated and you can find its password on its Wikipedia page. In the early '10s, a series of "police" ransomware packages appeared, so called because they purported to be warnings from law enforcement about the victims' illicit activities and demanded payment of "fines"; they began to exploit the new generation of anonymous payment services to better harvest payments without getting caught.
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