Criminals have pocketed at least £19m from ransomware in the last two years, Google has found.
The advertising giant created virtual victims of the viruses to map the payment ecosystem.
It revealed that two types of ransomware, Locky and Cerber, generated the most money.
“It’s become a very, very profitable market and is here to stay,” said Elie Bursztein from Google, the BBC reported.
Ransomware hit the headline in May after the WannaCry virus paralysed parts of the NHS.
Doctors and nurses were forced to cancel thousands of operations as security pro scrambled to stop the virus.
But Google’s research found that most of the money raised by ransomware was generated last year.
Ransomware encrypts victims files, before demanding a payment for their release.
More than 95 per cent of payments were converted in Russia’s BTC-e exchange, the research revealed.