(Bloomberg) -- The first widespread ransomware attack on Apple Inc. computers is drawing attention to a growing and lucrative corner of the hacking underworld where attackers encrypt and hold data hostage until they are paid to unlock the information.

An estimated 6,500 Macs were infected with malicious software designed to make files inaccessible to owners of desktops and laptops, according to the Transmission Project, a file-sharing software provider. The decision to target Apple’s OS X software, which is both harder to hack and less widespread than Microsoft Corp.’s Windows, underscores how attractive the practice has become, according to Clifford Neuman, who teaches cybersecurity at the University of Southern California.

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