What is Ransomware? - Definition

Ransomware is malware that encrypts data or restricts access to a computer or mobile device. Ransomware is “cyber blackmail” that seeks to force a victim to pay a ransom in order to decrypt their data or access their system once again. Changes to a victim's computer could include:

  • Encrypting data that is stored on the victim’s disk so the victim can no longer access the information.
  • Blocking normal access to the victim’s system.

How Ransomware Infects Computers

The most common ways in which Ransomware Trojans are installed are:

After the Trojan has been installed, it will either encrypt information that’s stored on the victim’s computer or block the computer from running normally – while also leaving a ransom message that demands the payment of a fee, in order to decrypt the files or restore the system. In most cases, the ransom message will appear when the user restarts their computer after the infection has taken effect.

How Ransomware Spreads

Across the world, Ransomware is increasing in popularity. However, the ransom messages and methods of extorting money may differ across different regions. For example:

  • Fake messages about unlicensed applications
    In some countries, the Trojans often claim to have identified unlicensed software that is running on the victim's computer. The message then asks for payment.
  • False claims about illegal content
    In nations where software piracy is less common, this approach is not as successful for the cybercriminal. Instead, the Ransomware popup message may pretend to be from a law enforcement agency and will claim to have found child pornography or other illegal content on the computer. The message will be accompanied by a demand to pay a fine.

How to Protect Yourself

To combat the increasing threat of ransomware, users should familiarize themselves with how ransomware is spread and how to recognize it. Recognizing how phishing scams operate is crucial to avoiding falling victim to ransomware malware while making sure to avoid suspicious looking website is also critically important. Keeping up-to-date antivirus software and malware removers on a computer or other device is also crucial. The following links offer additional information about ransomware and how to avoid it:

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