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What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware uses malicious software to hold a user’s computer system hostage until a ransom is paid. Ransomware attackers often demand ransom in cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin due to its perceived anonymity and ease of online payment. The malicious software used in a ransomware attack locks a user’s computer for a prefixed time after which the ransom amount increases, or the user’s data is destroyed. Ransomware costs the global economy in billions. A company that has been held hostage by ransomware can have its proprietary information destroyed, operations disrupted, reputation harmed, and finances lost. Cyberattacks like Denial of Service may be carried out for fun or to make a statement.

Denial of Service attackers deny a business access to its computer by demanding a certain amount of Bitcoin as payment in order to gain re-entry into the system. This means of getting a payment is done through Ransomware, which is a form of a Denial of Service attack. Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that encrypts a computer’s system data with a key that only the attacker has.

Ransomware is injected in an email attachment, or software, into a vulnerable website. A user who tries to access the infected programs will trigger the ransomware which locks the computer screen or encrypts the files in the system. A window pops up with information that states the user’s computer has been blocked, the amount in money or Bitcoins required to unlock the system, and a timer which indicates the amount of time left before the data held hostage is destroyed or the ransom is increased. Ransomware attackers usually demand payment to be wired through Western Union or paid through a specialized text message.

Ransomware attackers can infect many computers at once through the use of botnets. A botnet is a network of devices compromised by cybercriminals without the knowledge of the owners of the devices. The hackers infect the computers with malware that gives them control of the systems, and use these breached devices to send millions of compromised email attachments to other devices and systems. By kidnapping multiple systems and expecting the ransom to be paid, the perpetrators create havoc for the businesses and bonanza for themselves.