What Is Ransomware, Exactly? The Cyber Security Threat Explained

Ransomware is a brutal cyber security threat. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how ransomware works and how to protect your business against it.


Although you may have heard about ransomware in the news, you may not know exactly what it is, how it works, or what can be done about it. Ransomware has made international headlines for its unique ability to cripple even the most successful of businesses with its unsavory tactics.

You’ve likely heard about the aftermath of some of the most recent high-profile data compromises. Data breaches and cyber threats are indeed on the rise.

In 2017, Britain got a nasty surprise when WannaCry malware infected the NHS. This occurred after “WannaCry” ransomware infected the networks of as many as 40 medical trusts, rendering them without access to their patient’s vital medical records.

In addition to compromising health care needs in the UK, the virus went on to infect shipping giant FedEx. In all, its estimated that over 300,000 computers were affected internationally.

Read on to learn more about ransomware and how you can prevent your data from becoming the next target.

What Is Ransomware

Ransomware is one of many cybersecurity threats facing you and all of your most important data. Ransomware is especially undesirable because it exists for the purpose of cyber extortion.

If your computer is infected with ransomware, there is still no guarantee that your data will be recovered, even if you do decide to pay the fee. It is estimated that 1 in every 5 people who pay the ransom will still be unable to fully recover their data.

The fee is usually payable only by cryptocurrency. This helps to protect the anonymity of the attacker. Once the fee is paid, your files can likely be recovered or decrypted.

Ransomware can compromise your computer virtually instantly if you click a malicious link or download an unverified application or document.

It can often be difficult to spot a malicious link, as hackers have often deceivingly integrated these links to advertisements and other innocuous looking formats.

Forms of Ransomware

Most ransomware comes in one of two forms. ‘Cryptor’ ransomware acts by encrypting all of your documents. These documents will be held hostage by the virus until a fee is paid. If the fee is paid, a decryption code will allow you to again access your important data.

‘Blocker’ ransomware acts by creating a barrier that prevents the user from using or accessing your device. This will typically be apparent to you whenever opening your device.

It is likely that you will see a screen displayed detailing how your computer is no longer accessible because you have visited an illegal site. The prompt will then direct you to pay a ransom to recover access to your device.

Addressing the Cyber Security Threat

Regardless of rather you decide to pay the demanded ransom, you may never be able to recover your files. The best defense against ransomware is prevention.

This means keeping your computer current by downloading all system updates and avoiding unverified attachments or files. System updates exist to not only keep your computer up to date on operating system improvements but to provide the patches necessary to correct newly discovered system vulnerabilities.

If your computer does become infected, turn it off immediately. Doing so will help prevent the virus from spreading and infecting all of your files.

Seeking the help of a reputable IT professional can help you prevent malware from infecting your computer. If your computer has already been infected, it is still possible to minimize damage to your network with professional help.

For more information on how you can keep your important data safe from the dangers of a cyber security threat, visit our blog.