Like the name implies, ransomware is a particularly dangerous type of malware that holds your information hostage until you pay the responsible cybercriminals a fee. Because this type of money-making scheme is incredibly hard to stop after it has attacked without paying the ransom, it is almost always successful and has devastating consequences. Because it is such a sophisticated type of malware, it is the most dangerous type and has far-reaching consequences.

Ransomware uses a series of malware attacks to invade your computer. Through social engineering attacks, viruses, and Trojan horses, ransomware worms its way through vulnerable spots in your security program. It then identifies which files are valuable and important, such as financial records, and encrypts them so you cannot access your own files. These encryptions are incredibly complex and difficult to unencrypt, so often the only way to recover your information is to follow the criminal’s demand for ransom.

As soon as it locks away important files, ransomware announces itself. It does not act secretly as other types of malware do but is instead blatantly intrusive. It announces its presence with a verbal or popup message that instructs the user on how to pay the ransom. Often, the cybercriminals demand vouchers instead of accepting credit card payment so the transaction cannot be traced by the authorities. Once the ransom has been paid, the user regains access to the stolen information, but the damage has already been done. The intrusive nature of this type of scheme causes it to feel more personal than other kinds of attacks.

Although victims of ransomware attacks usually have no choice but to pay the fee to retrieve their information, it is not a good solution. Although the information is returned to the user, the cybercriminals have already taken the information down and can use it in the future, even though the ransom has been paid.

Recently, cybercriminals have begun to run a variation on the classic ransomware scheme. The message appears to be from the local police or the FBI and demands a fine for an “illegal” activity the user was involved in. Because it looks legitimate, many users fall for this tactic and pay the fine to gain access to their files again.

Ransomware has similar goals as other types of malware do it that it seeks to steal valuable information from other users. Unlike other malware types, it is a blatant, obvious attack that could continue to plague you years after the initial threat is resolved. The best way to protect yourself from ransomware is to keep your computer secure with a comprehensive anti-malware program. A good program can provide your device with a solid wall of security to keep your information from getting into the hands of someone who has malicious intentions for it.