Ransomware – What It Is and How Common It Is

If you are interested in protecting yourself and your computer from hacker attacks, you must have heard about ransomware. The infection so often these days, you can read about it on almost every website. This malicious software is designed specially to bring profit to its designers fast and easy. Unlike other malware which destroys your PC or tracks your data that will be used against you sometimes in the future, ransomware is straightforward and imminent.

What Is Ransomware and How It Works

Ransomware is a malware which locks your whole system or particular file storage with encryption. In order to unlock it, the user must pay a certain amount of money or Bitcoins. A detailed instruction is provided on the screen, on how to pay ransom in exchange for the key that unlocks the encryption. Often these messages contain official logos of FBI, NSA or similar, as a conviction method, ensuring the user to pay the asked price.

Ransomware has to be triggered, which means it can sit on your PC for quite some time. Usually, this type of malware comes through emails or infected web pages. It can also be downloaded, with some content or free software. Once it’s active, it ciphers your data, and it can’t be deleted or unlocked without a key. There is still no protection against it, not in a form of software at least. The only way of releasing your data is by paying the perpetrators. Some security software companies have found unlock keys for certain types of ransomware, but if yours is not on the list there is nothing you can do but pay or forget about your data.


The experts assume that the first ransomware was designed at the end of the eighties, beginning of the nineties. Since there was no use of it at that time, it stayed unknown to the public until 2009, the year of its comeback. Thanks to the rise of the internet ransomware was introduced to the vast population and over just a few short years became one of the most notorious malware out there. Every report from 2012 up until today contains some pretty alarming numbers when it comes to both frequency of the attacks and the financial loss caused by this malware.

Since the last year ransomware is being used as an addition to scareware and similar scams. Through fake virus reports, users are led to activate ransomware and then, the whole process is on the way.

In the beginning of its new era ransomware was usually linked to some Russian or other eastern European bank account. After the Bitcoin became the usable currency with a good conversion rate, hackers got more comfortable with their attacks. Transactions of digital money are almost impossible to trace, so wrongdoers may keep their location and identity a secret.


The frequency of the ransomware attacks became so often that only in the USA around 6000 PCs are infected daily. The price of the key may vary depending on the attacker or the type of victim. Private users are usually charged somewhere between $200 and $500, while businesses can be damaged for up to $15000. The data gathered by the FTC and FBI showed total “profit” through ransomware at the end of 2015 was around $200 million.

As scary as it sounds ransomware is avoidable. It’s highly possible most of the security software companies will focus their development to fight ransomware, but until then it’s enough to be more careful online and offline. Keeping your antivirus active and up-to-date you can stop ransomware before it’s engaged. Also, keep an external hard drive offline. Store your important data on it, even if you are affected with this type of attack you could save money, time and your personal information.