Security Center

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that a hacker will use to block access to your data until you pay a ransom.

Here is how Ransomware works:

  • Ransomware starts with an unlocated email, or “phish”, that lures a victim into clicking a link that downloads malicious software on their computer.
  • The ransomware software then takes advantage of a vulnerability in the computer’s operating system to run the infected code.
  • The ransomware software encrypts the data on the computer so that the user cannot access it until they provide enter a key.
  • The attacker will then contact the user to demand payment (generally via Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency) before providing the key to decrypt their data.

What can you do to protect yourself form a ransomware attack?

  • Keep your operating system and software current by installing the latest patches from the vendors. Ensure your systems and software are patched to the most current updates.
  • Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer and ensure it’s set to scan your system on a regular basis.
  • Do not click on unsolicited links in emails and follow best practices to protect yourself from phishing attacks.
  • Create backups of your data. If a hacker does successfully encrypt your data with a ransomware attack, you may be able to rescue yourself by deleted the encrypted data and restoring from a backup.

With proper safeguards, online vigilance, and a sound backup strategy, you can reduce the risk of ransomware to you and your computer. Learn more about protecting yourself from ransomware attacks by visiting stopransomware.gov.

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Ransomware

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