The concept behind ransomware is quite simple: Lock and encrypt a victim’s device data, then demand a ransom to restore access. In many cases, the victim must pay the cybercriminal within a set amount of time or risk losing access forever.
Ransomware could result in your personal files being held hostage, keeping you from your documents, photos, and financial information. Those files are still on your computer, but they’re encrypted and unreadable.
One of the worst aspects of ransomware is even if you pay the ransom there is no guarantee you will get access to your files again, as attackers will often ask for bigger ransoms once you pay the initial amount.
Types of ransomware
Ransomware can come in many shapes and sizes. Some variants may be more harmful than others, but they all have one thing in common – a ransom. Here’s five types:
This is a well-known form of ransomware and can cause a great deal of damage by locking by encryption personal files on your computer.
This kind of ransomware is known for infecting your operating system to completely lock you out of your device, making it impossible to access any of your files or applications.
This is fake software that acts like an antivirus or cleaning tool. Scareware often claims to have found issues on your devices, demanding money to resolve the issue. Some types of scareware lock your devices, while others flood your screen with annoying alerts and pop-up messages.
Commonly referred to as leakware, doxware threatens to publish your stolen information online if you don’t pay the ransom. As more people store sensitive files and personal photos on their devices, it’s understandable that many individuals panic and pay the ransom.
Otherwise known as “Ransomware as a Service,” RaaS is a type of malware hosted anonymously by a hacker. These criminals handle everything from distributing the ransomware and collecting payments to managing software that restores data access.
Do’s and don’ts of ransomware
Ransomware is a profitable market for cybercriminals and can be difficult to stop. To help protect yourself from a ransomware attack, keep in mind these do’s and don’ts:
- Do use security software
For complete peace of mind you need an advanced security suite powerful enough to protect your devices from threats.
- Do keep your security software up to date
New ransomware variants appear on a regular basis, so having up-to-date internet security software will help protect you against cyberattacks.
- Do update your operating system and other software
Software updates frequently include patches for newly discovered security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by ransomware attackers.
- Don’t automatically open email attachments
Email is one of the main methods for delivering ransomware. Avoid opening emails and attachments from untrusted sources.
- Do be wary of any email attachment that advises you to enable macros to view its content
Once enabled malware can infect multiple files.
- Do back up important data to an external hard drive
Attackers can gain leverage over their victims by encrypting valuable files and making them inaccessible. If the victim has backup copies, the hacker no longer holds the upper hand.
- Do use cloud services
This can help mitigate a ransomware infection, since many cloud services retain previous versions of files, allowing you to “roll back” to the unencrypted form.
- Don’t pay the ransom
You could be wondering, “But won’t I get my files back if I pay the ransom?” You might, but you might not. Sensing desperation, a cybercriminal could ask you to keep paying.
Knowing what Ransomware is and what to do to prevent an attack is an important step to protecting yourself online.
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