When a lot of people talk about computer viruses they tend to talk about software that lurks in the background, steels your information, and can possibly highjack some of what your computer does.  One type of virus can be especially devastating to your computer.  This is ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of virus that takes control of your computer and locks you out of all functions, including accessing your files.  In almost all cases, the people behind ransomware require you to pay a large amount of money to get access back.  In some extreme cases, ransomware writers will require the user to perform a task for them.

Almost every case of ransomware includes a timer that expires within a day.  If you do not pay the money, all of your data will be deleted forever.  There is no guarantee that your data will be returned to you.

Part of the problem with ransomware is that some of the victims are afraid to report it and pay the ransomers.  This fear typically comes from one of two places: they have a reasonable fear of illegal content on their computer or they have the fear that something such as their browser history will be made public.

Only in some cases will the ransomers have access to all of your data.  In many cases, their only interest is getting paid.  The ransomware doesn’t even have to demand a lot of money, they just have to get multiple people to pay which means constantly coming up with new ways to deploy their virus.

The most common method for spreading this type of virus is with spam emails.  Criminals will craft emails that look like legitimate emails and send them to people who are unsuspecting.  Those people open the attachment and their computer is infected.

Another way for ransomware to be distributed is amongst pirated software or freeware that is posted on the internet.

There are multiple ways that you can avoid being a victim of ransomware.  One of the best ways is to not download unknown attachments or software.  Especially when you aren’t expecting an attachment.  This is true even on an Apple computer.  While Apple computers don’t get as many viruses, they still get them.

Another step you should take is to make sure that your anti-virus software is always up to date, even if you are using Windows Defender.  This software is not foolproof but the regular updates help it to recognize new threats, including cyber criminal’s updates to their viruses.

Most ransomware criminals don’t even spend much time monitoring their virus.  They spend most of their time updating the virus and countering anti-virus software.  The deployment and payment of ransom is completely automated by the software.

When you pay the ransom for a virus the payment is made through untraceable methods.  A more modern way of paying is with Bitcoin.  Cyber criminals will also request payment in digital gift cards that are emailed to burner email accounts.

Ransomware is a big reason why people should back up their data.  Most ransom type viruses will delete all of the data after a certain amount of time.  If you have a backup of your data you don’t have to worry.

The easiest way to get rid of a virus of any kind, including ransomware, is to wipe the hard drive of a computer completely.  This is done using software on a thumb drive or CD.  You can also connect the drive to another computer but you run the risk of spreading the ransomware.

In almost all cases ransomware is fully encrypted to the point where attempting to retrieve your data that way is impossible.  This is especially true with ransomware that has had a timer put on it.

Being a victim of ransomware isn’t a fun event but with how common these viruses are, you are likely to at least know someone who has been a victim.  Making sure that you don’t become a victim should be one of your highest priorities.  Losing your data and access to your computer is time consuming and can cost you money.