What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that allows a hacker to lock your computer or encrypt files. The latter type is also known as cryptoware. Only by paying a ransom can you gain access to your computer and files again.

How does ransomware work?

Cyber criminals send you an e-mail with an attachment or link that contains malware. The malware may also be hidden in an image pasted into the e-mail. The apparent senders of these e-mails are often official bodies or reputable companies. By downloading the attachment or clicking on the link or image, you activate the malware and surrender control of your computer and/or files to the cybercriminal.

Another way in which you can fall victim to ransomware is through programs which are already installed on your computer. In order to infect a computer with ransomware in this way, hackers do first have to find a leak in the software. To do so they perform scans on software to identify vulnerabilities for which no security update has yet been performed.

How can you protect yourself against ransomware?

To protect yourself against ransomware it is useful to follow these tips:

  • Always install available software updates so that your operating system and applications are provided with the latest security patches.
  • Use a virus scanner and make sure it is automatically updated at least once a day.
  • Don't click on attachments and links in e-mails unless you are certain that you can verify and trust the sender.
  • Make backups. This won't protect you against ransomware, but it will protect you against the possible consequences – you can be sure you won't lose all your data if you do become the victim of a ransomware attack.
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