Ransomware is a form of malware that “ransoms” users. Different types of ransomware use different methods, though the most common is encrypting important files. Once encrypted, users can’t open or access these files without a decryption key or tool. The ransomware then directs users to a page where they can pay to regain access to their files. Ransomware often demands payments of several thousand dollars in the form of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, which are more difficult to track than normal payments.
Cybercriminals use fake emails, social engineering, or pop-ups to trick users into installing ransomware onto their computers. Businesses are the main targets of ransomware, but cyber criminals also target general users. While it may seem like a major threat, when you understand what ransomware is and how to protect yourself from it, you can easily reduce the risk.
Types of Ransomware
There are many different types of ransomware. Each uses different methods in an attempt to ransom users for money or information.
- Scareware is the least threatening ransomware. It creates pop-ups like fake virus warnings that scare users into paying money to “remove” the non-existent virus.
- Crypto ransomware finds and encrypts important files or documents on a computer, preventing users from accessing them.
- Locker ransomware completely locks users out of a device rather than encrypting certain files. Because this requires higher security permissions, it is rarer than other types of ransomware.
- Doxware or leakware steals information, images, or videos and threatens to publish them online unless users pay the ransom.
Examples of Ransomware
Throughout the years, there have been several wide-scale ransomware attacks that affected users all over the world. Some of the most infamous are:
Bad Rabbit: Ransomware that spreads through a fake Adobe Flash update pop-up on compromised sites. Bad Rabbit blocks access to the computer’s entire hard disk.
Locky: It first appeared in 2016 and quickly became one of the most common forms of ransomware. Spread primarily through emails, Locky is so prevalent that antivirus and antimalware companies have dedicated pages teaching users how to remove it.
Jigsaw: Ransomware that encrypts and steadily deletes files over 72 hours until the user pays the ransom. After the 72-hour mark, Jigsaw completely deletes all of the files it encrypted.
CryptoLocker: Perhaps the most infamous example of ransomware, CryptoLocker used military-grade encryption and stored the unlock key on a remote server. This makes it extremely difficult for users to regain access to their files without paying the ransom.
Crysis: Another ransomware commonly spread through emails, Crysis disguises itself as a non-executable file or as a legitimate installer for other applications.
While ransomware can be scary, avoiding it is fairly straightforward. Tips for protecting yourself include:
- Only browse the internet with an up-to-date secure browser, such as OneLaunch.
- When you are browsing, don’t click on pop-ups or suspicious emails.
- Keep your operating system updated with the most recent patches to improve overall security.
- Use cybersecurity services such as Malwarebytes, Kaspersky, Avira, or Norton 360. These can scan your computer, remove the ransomware, and even sometimes decrypt your files.
- Update your antivirus and antimalware programs.
- Backup your information using a service such as OneDrive or Google Drive. Alternatively, store your backups on secure external hard drives. This allows you to regain files that ransomware encrypts.
- Don’t download programs or files from links that others give you unless you can track them to a legitimate source.
Each form of ransomware attempts to extort users into paying large amounts of money. While ransomware is a threat, tools like antiviruses often easily handle ransomware attacks. If you want to reduce the risk of ransomware, use a secure internet browser like OneLaunch. Because OneLaunch is a Chromium-based browser, it comes complete with all of Chrome’s security features. It will automatically block suspicious pop-ups and dangerous sites to protect you from malware like ransomware.