What is Ransomware?

what is ransomware

What is Ransomware? Everywhere you look, it seems like there’s a new eye-popping statistic that illustrates the threat posed by ransomware, whether it’s the yearly growth rate of 350% percent, or the fact that it’s expected to cause over $5 billion in damages in 2017 alone.

However, even if you’ve heard all this talk about ransomware, and you’re concerned about the threat it poses your business, you may not be fully aware of exactly what it is. The first step toward protecting yourself from this threat is to understand it. So, in this post, we’ll provide a quick introduction to help get you up to speed on the subject.

So what is ransomware?

As the name suggests, ransomware is like the digital equivalent of kidnapping: attackers use malware to hold the data on an infected computer hostage. Typically, the malware will encrypt the data, making it unusable for the victim. The victim will then be given instructions on how to pay the ransom in order to regain access to their data. These transactions are often performed using cryptocurrencies, allowing the attacker to collect the ransom without revealing their identity.

In most cases, the ransom may come with a built-in time limit, where the affected data will be destroyed if the victim does not comply with the demands quickly enough.

Ransomware is different from other forms of cyber-attack, in that it does not rely on the element of surprise. In fact, informing the victim that the exploit has occurred is essential to being able to collect the ransom. In addition, while the technology behind the attack might be sophisticated, the motive certainly isn’t: hackers who use ransomware are out to get your money, plain and simple. Their exploits may end up creating non-monetary costs for you as well, in the form of lost or damaged data, lost productivity, and system downtime. However, these outcomes are all unintentional on the hacker’s part. At the end of the day, the ransom is the only thing that truly concerns them.

The malware behind the attacks can infect a computer using a variety of different methods, including infected email attachments, software, external storage devices, or websites. Some particularly dangerous forms of ransomware, such as the high-profile WannaCry ransomware that emerged in May 2017, are able to spread from computer to computer on the same network by exploiting known vulnerabilities within those computers.

Now that you have some understanding of how ransomware works, your next step is to figure out how to protect yourself, and what to do in the event you fall victim to an attack. Check back soon for the next post in our series on ransomware.

Alex Morrow

Alex Morrow

Security Practice Director / CISO at Cima Solutions Group
Alex Morrow is an entrepreneur and technology enthusiast who has solidified himself as an expert in many areas of IT and Telecommunications.
Alex Morrow