Page written by AI. Reviewed internally on April 19, 2024.


Ransomware is a type of malware designed to encrypt files or lock down computer systems, with the intention of getting payments from victims in exchange for restoring access to their data or systems. 

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a significant cybersecurity threat that can have major consequences for individuals, businesses, and organisations. It typically works by encrypting files on the victim’s computer or network, making them inaccessible without the decryption key. Some ransomware variants may also lock down entire computer systems, preventing users from accessing their operating system or files until the ransom is paid.

After encrypting files or locking down systems, ransomware displays a ransom demand to the victim, usually in the form of a message or notification on the affected device. The ransom demand typically instructs the victim to pay a sum of money to obtain the decryption key or regain access to their files or systems.

Ransomware attacks can have severe consequences for victims, including data loss, financial loss, operational disruption, and reputational damage. Businesses and organisations may suffer downtime, loss of productivity, and damage to customer trust and confidence as a result of ransomware attacks.

Preventing ransomware attacks requires a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity, including implementing robust security measures, keeping systems and software updated with the latest security patches, and educating users about cybersecurity best practices. Regularly backing up important data and storing backups offline or in a secure location can reduce the impact of ransomware attacks by allowing affected systems to be restored without paying the ransom.

Example of ransomware

A user unknowingly downloads a file attachment from an email claiming to be an important document. Upon opening the attachment, the user unintentionally executes the ransomware, which begins encrypting files on the user’s computer and displaying a ransom demand.

The ransom demand instructs the user to pay a specified amount of cryptocurrency within a given timeframe to receive the decryption key and regain access to their encrypted files. Faced with the threat of permanent data loss, the user is left with the difficult decision of whether to pay the ransom or seek alternative solutions, such as data recovery or restoration from backups.

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