What is Ransomware?
Ransomware has been around for quite some time, with early examples found dating back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. One of the earliest known ransomware families, PC Cyborg, was discovered in 1989. This ransomware used symmetric key cryptography to encrypt the user’s files and then demanded a payment of $189 to $378 in order to decrypt the files. In order to make payment, the user was instructed to use a specific credit card or purchase specific money orders. If the user did not comply with these instructions, the software would delete the key needed to decrypt the files, making them permanently inaccessible.
The methods used to distribute ransomware have also evolved over time. Early examples were typically spread via floppy disk or email attachments, but as internet usage has become more widespread, so has the distribution of ransomware. These days, it is not uncommon for ransomware to be spread via malicious email attachments or links, drive-by downloads, or even exploit kits. No matter the method of distribution, once a system is infected, the ransomware will typically take one of two forms: either it will encrypt the user’s files and demand a payment to decrypt them, or it will lock the user out of their system and demand a payment to regain access.
While ransomware can be a serious threat, there are steps that users can take to protect themselves. In the next section, we will go over some of the best practices for avoiding ransomware infections in the first place. We will also cover what to do if you find yourself the victim of a ransomware attack, as well as some steps you can take to limit the damage that these attacks can cause.