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Article · Feb 19, 2016

Ask a Carbonista: What is ransomware?

Ask a Carbonista: What is ransomware?

Color illustration of a woman pointing to the words: Ask a Carbonista.

If you keep up with the news, “ransomware” is a term you’re probably seeing more and more often. Ransomware computer viruses like Cryptowall, Cryptolocker, and TorrentLocker are becoming a more common problem for homes and businesses alike. However, before you can start protecting yourself against ransomware, it’s important to understand the definition of ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer until a sum of money – a ransom -- is paid. Ransomware often takes the form of an email attachment or download which, when opened, spreads the virus and prevents you from accessing your data and gives you a message explaining the amount of the ransom demand and instructions for paying it. Here’s an example of the type of message that might appear on your screen when ransomware strikes:

Ransomware message

It’s important to note that while the cybercriminals who spread ransomware always demands money in return for your data, there is no guarantee that you’ll get access to your data once the ransom is paid. They are criminals, after all. More often than not the ransom is demanded in a difficult to track Internet currency like Bitcoins, so there’s no real incentive for the ransomware creators to return your data.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a victim. All you have to do is be a bit proactive and make sure that all of your important data is backed up to the cloud. That way, if your computer or network ever gets infected with ransomware, all you need to do is delete all of the infected files and restore clean versions from backup. It’s the best way to get your data back quickly, without having to deal with the people holding your data hostage.


Ryan Harnedy

IT Community Manager

Ryan Harnedy is the IT Community Manager for Carbonite. He blogs about technology, IT trends, and best practices for SMB IT pros.

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