What is ransomware? Well, the clue is actually in the name. Ransomware is a specific type of malware (intentionally damaging software) that will hold their victim's information and data at a ransom.
This data is encrypted to prevent the victim from accessing their information, and the attacks hold the decryption key at a cost.
Victims must pay the ransom demands for their data to be decrypted and returned safely or incur a loss of their files.
Whilst ransomware can target individuals and companies alike, ransomware authors have learned that businesses are often more lucrative victims.
Cybercriminals use ransomware to target and spread across larger networks and servers. Businesses need to be vigilant against ransomware to prevent significant losses to their files and revenue.
Another sinister aspect of ransomware crime is Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). This is where ransomware authors also sell ransomware as a service to other cybercriminals on the dark web.
Cybercriminals can use the ransomware to cause a ransomware cyberattack and in turn, ransomware has become far more widespread.
Types of ransomware
Ransomware attacks are increasing in number and becoming advanced, inflicting costly and more damaging encryptions on victims.
Ransomware variants extort their victims in slightly different ways, and of these different variants, the two main ransomware examples are locker and crypto-ransomware.
Locker ransomware is perhaps the lesser of two evils. Rather than encrypt files, locker ransomware locks out users from their devices completely.
The victim's computer is held at ransom and will need to be restarted, losing all the files.
Crypto ransomware encrypts the files or data, requiring a decryption key to recover the files.
How does ransomware attack?
Malicious spam (malspam) such as phishing emails are one of the main vehicles for delivering ransomware. This can be in the form of documents or links to malicious websites.
Cybercriminals use manipulative techniques to encourage victims to click on the link, give away their personal data, or allow administrative access to their files.
Should you pay the ransom?
The first thought that many victims might have is to pay the ransom, and that once the ransom has been paid their problems with ransomware would be over.
However, paying the ransom to cybercriminals is heavily discouraged for a few significant reasons. The first is simply that you might still not be able to get your files back despite paying the ransom.
Additionally, paying the ransom may single the victim out as a lucrative and willing target. This in turn encourages attackers to continue attacking either yourself or others.
So, what can you do if you are infected with ransomware?
You could try and use a decrypt tool to unlock the files, however, this is not a guaranteed solution as ransomware and their encryption becomes increasingly advanced.
You might be wondering how to remove ransomware once it has infected your system.
Ransomware removal is necessary if you want to continue using your device again. It is important to have a good security system that can remove the ransomware infection and present further damage.
However, removing the ransomware will not always get your files back.
Instead, the best line of defense when it comes to ransomware is to learn how to prevent ransomware attacks in the first place.
How to protect yourself from ransomware attacks
It is essential to protect yourself from ransomware attacks, as there is very little you can do to get your files back once infected.
Luckily there are a few steps you can take to prevent ransomware from hacking into your system.
The first is to not open email attachments from unreliable sources and be wary of any links from popups.
Avoid opening files that are unrecognisable, as this is where the ransomware will be hidden.
Check the actual email address of senders and be careful not to be fooled by emails that have the name of any of your contacts. Hackers can be crafty!
Encrypt important files yourself before they are encrypted by cybercriminals.
If ransomware attacks your device, though your data might be locked, it is protected from being read and used as a bargaining tool to exploit you further.
And finally, ensure that your system is kept up to date with reliable ransomware protection and antivirus software.
A good security system will provide you with protection from ransomware attacks and alert you to any potential risks so that you can act quickly.
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