Security Basics: What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a form of malware (‘malicious software’) that encrypts a victim’s files and data. The attacker demands for payment to restore access to the information. Users are provided instructions for how to pay a fee for a decryption key to unlock the data. The ransom can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands paid to the cybercriminal in Bitcoin or some other form of digital currency.

What are the signs of a Ransomware infection?

  1. Your files are locked and cannot be opened. You may get error messages such as ‘this file is corrupted when you attempt to open a folder, file, or document.
  2. Your file and document names may be scrambled.
  3. Your web browser is locked. You cannot navigate anywhere on the internet or open your browser.
  4. You receive an obvious ransom note.
  5. You see a countdown clock to a deadline for action.

DOWNLOAD our 5 Signs of Ransomware infographic.

How do you get infected with Ransomware?

One of the most common ways of getting infected with Ransomware is via phishing emails. Infected attachments or malicious links are sent to potential victims in an email. Once the attachment or link is opened, a cybercriminal can take over the user’s computer and encrypt the files.

How to prevent Ransomware?

There are steps you can take to prevent ransomware. Following these general good security practice steps will improve your defenses against many types of cyberattacks.

    • The email is sent from an unknown sender or an ‘off’ email address of someone you do know.
    • The email contains unexpected attachments or links. Hover over links to reveal the full link address.
    • The email is of an urgent or emergency request with consequences if you do not take immediate action.
  • Keep your operating system and business applications up to date with security patches and other updates.
  • Ensure your computer and networks have antivirus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known ransomware
  • Back up your files and data frequently and comprehensively. Isolate these backups from local and open networks.
  • Employee security training. Educate your team to understand the current cybersecurity risks, types of attacks, how to spot them, and the best practices to avoid them.


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