What Is Ransomware & What Does It Do?

What Is Ransomware & What Does It Do

Cyberattacks were on the rise last year, and ransomware attacks saw a particularly large increase. In fact, an astounding 65 percent of businesses were victimized by ransomware in 2021. 

Here’s a look at what ransomware is, how it infects systems and what the impact is of those attacks.

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects systems to commandeer data with the intent of extorting a ransom from the user. Ransomware can operate in several different ways, but it typically uses the threat of preventing the user from accessing their data — or publishing sensitive data — if the user does not pay the ransom.

Types of Ransomware

There are a few common types of ransomware. They all serve a similar purpose but go about extorting ransom from individuals and businesses in different ways.

Encrypting Ransomware

As the name suggests, encrypting ransomware encrypts the data on the infected system. Only the malicious actor has the password to decrypt the data, so the user is unable to access important files and documents on their system. Encrypting ransomware provides the user with instructions on how much they need to pay in order to regain access to their data.

Fortunately, this type of ransomware can be easily overcome by restoring the system to a backup dated before the ransomware infection after wiping the system.

Screen Locking

Screen locking ransomware locks the user’s screen and displays a message demanding a ransom be paid before the system will be unlocked. In many cases, screen locking ransomware poses as a law enforcement agency, claiming that illegal files have been found on your system. The ransom is presented as a fine that must be paid to regain access to your systems. Like encrypting ransomware, screen locking can be resolved by wiping the system and restoring to a previous backup. Click here for more info.


Scareware uses social engineering to scare victims into paying the ransom. This is often in the form of a demand to pay for software to remove a fake virus or other malware that the user’s system is claimed to have been infected with. This type of ransomware depends on causing anxiety in the user that leads to paying to make the issue go away.

Who Are Common Ransomware Targets?

Anyone can be the target of ransomware. Individuals are often the easiest targets as the common computer user doesn’t have extensive IT knowledge. This makes scareware particularly effective.

Small businesses are a common target of ransomware attacks as well. They typically have more funds and are willing to pay ransomware settlements. They also don’t typically have large, experienced IT teams to identify and eliminate ransomware attacks. In a way, the small business is often the ideal target as they represent the sweet spot between individuals who often aren’t able to pay the ransom and larger businesses whose IT experts are experienced in handling such attacks.

Avoid Ransomware With Knowledge

Ransomware can affect anyone, but if you’re aware of the common tactics, you can avoid becoming a victim. Identifying ransomware attacks immediately is the first step. Once you’ve determined the type of attack you are up against, you can take steps to remove the ransomware without paying the ransom.

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