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Web Security: What is ransomware ?

What is ransomware? 

Ransom malware, or ransomware, is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files and demands ransom payment in order to regain access. The earliest variants of ransomware were developed in the late 1980s, and payment was to be sent via snail mail. Today, ransomware authors order that payment be sent via cryptocurrency or credit card. 


How do I get ransomware? 

There are several different ways that ransomware can infect your computer. One of the most common methods today is through malicious spam, or malspam, which is unsolicited email that is used to deliver malware. The email might include booby-trapped attachments, such as PDFs or Word documents. It might also contain links to malicious websites. 

Malspam uses social engineering in order to trick people into opening attachments or clicking on links by appearing as legitimate—whether that’s by seeming to be from a trusted institution or a friend. 


What to do if I get infected 

Ask the advice of a security/IT specialist before trying anything.  

Do not try using a decryptor to unlock your files. Not all ransomware families have had decryptors created for them, in many cases because the ransomware is utilizing advanced and sophisticated encryption algorithms. And even if there is a decryptor, it’s not always clear if it’s for right version of the malware. You don’t want to further encrypt your files by using the wrong decryption script. 


How do I protect myself from ransomware? 


Invest in cybersecurity 

A program with real-time protection that’s designed to thwart advanced malware attacks such as ransomware. 



You need to create secure backups of your data on a regular basis. External hard drives could be used where you can save new or updated files—just be sure to physically disconnect the devices from your computer after backing up, otherwise they can become infected with ransomware, too. 


Update your systems and software

There are constant updates being released for operating systems. When this update is released, notes are made available to the public advising what the patch was for and in some cases there are security patches released. If your systems are not updated, they will remain vulnerable to attacks. 


Be aware

One of the most common ways that computers are infected with ransomware is through social engineering. Educate yourself (and your employees if you’re a business owner) on how to detect malspam, suspicious websites, and other scams. And above all else, exercise common sense. If it seems suspect, it probably is. 

Updated on August 30, 2023

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