What is Ransomware?
Like a kidnapped person, the information on your computer can now be held hostage by criminals, who demand a ransom to release it. This is called a ransomware attack and, unfortunately, it’s a growing problem. This video explains ransomware. It teaches:
- Why ransomware attacks happen
- What actions can lead to an attack
- How criminals access your computer and data
- What criminals want in exchange for your data
- What can be done to prevent ransomware attacks
Imagine a hostage situation. A criminal has kidnapped a person, tied them up and is now talking to the police. The kidnapper has a demand. He will trade the hostage for money.
This is called a ransom and it’s essentially a trade - the criminal wants payment for the freedom of the hostage. Today, this same idea can apply to our computers and devices.
Instead of kidnapping a person, criminals lock your computer, and demand a ransom from you to unlock it. This is called a Ransomware attack. Here’s how it usually works.
In order for a criminal to get access to your computer, you usually have to click on something like an email attachment or a link on a criminal website.
To encourage you to click attachments, criminals will try to make the email look official, or familiar, as if it came from a trustworthy source.
The attachment may look like a harmless document or photo. The same is true for websites with dangerous links. When when you click it, a program runs on your computer that locks your files and prevents you from accessing them.
Usually, a message appears on your screen that alerts you to the problem and includes instructions for solving it.
In most cases, the criminals demand a ransom to unlock the computer and require that payment is made in a way that is untraceable, like through Bitcoin. If payment is made, the criminals usually provide a code that can be used to unlocked the computer and files.
More sophisticated ransomware can also infect your computer through a network or by finding security holes that may not even require a click from you. Ransomware attacks are similar to other threats like viruses, worms and trojans.
Problems can be prevented by being a responsible computer user. Keep your operating system, browsers and applications up to date. And awareness is key. Only open attachments when you know the source and be suspicious of messages asking for privileges to access your computer. The criminals are sneaky.
Most antivirus programs can help you detect ransomware when it arrives and may be able to help you remove it. And finally, always keep a backup of your files on a hard drive or online service so you can recover if your computer remains locked.
Ransomware is a reality of using computers and the internet. With awareness and responsible computer practices, you can avoid problems and prevent your files from becoming hostages.
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