Mid 2016: the FBI revealed that cybercriminals had extorted $209m from organisations in the first three months of the year with an estimated annual total of around $1bn. Later it emerged that the impact of ransomware went even deeper as many incidents remained unreported to authorities — as it hit uptime and productivity, the financial effect of ransomware was more in the region of $75bn. For our fictional antihero, Alex, these figures look very good in his bank account, especially since his aptitude with computers and code has lifted him from a poor rural lifestyle into one where money is no longer an object. Alex began life in a small rural village. To access a computer, he’d have to first walk some way to the local library, where he spent time teaching himself to code. It wasn’t long before he became the resident expert. He used tutorials on the internet to learn different coding languages and expand his knowledge. As a teenager, fixing computers in his neighbourhood and village ...

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