Ransomware: what is it, how it works and how to prevent it?

Ransomware is malicious software that takes control of various devices using different methods such as different types of code, viruses,...
24 August 2023

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Ransomware: what is it, how it works and how to prevent it?

Ransomware is malicious software that takes control of various devices using different methods such as different types of code, viruses, and computer worms. Its goal is to extort the victim by demanding a ransom in order to regain control of the device.

These attacks can jeopardize the continuity of your company, so it is crucial to establish a culture of digital security as the best preventive measure. 

You can become a victim of a ransomware attack at any time, so we want you to be as prepared as possible. Throughout this article, we will share valuable information about what ransomware is, how it works, and how you can prevent it.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software or malware that takes control of a computer, smartphone, tablet, or any other device by encrypting all its contents or locking the screen. 

The intention is to demand money in order to release the device and regain control over it.

What is a ransomware attack?

In contrast to other cyberattacks, this type of malicious code does not seek to remain unnoticed. 

In fact, it aims to draw the victim’s attention in order to collect the ransom. If you are attacked by ransomware, you may encounter different types of ransomware attacks. The most common variants include:

  1. Diskcoder: Ransomware that encrypts the computer’s hard drive, preventing access to the operating system.
  2. Screen locker or lockscreen: The attack locks the screen, preventing any action on the device.
  3. Crypto-ransomware: This type of ransomware renders the stored information on the device unreadable through encryption.
  4. PIN locker: Modifies the device’s access credentials, making it impossible for the victims to access it.
  5. Scareware: Takes the form of fake software that claims to have found problems on your device, which can be solved by paying. This malicious program fills your computer with pop-up windows containing alert messages, and it can even block your device.

Ransomware attacks often employ social engineering techniques, tricks, and deception to pressure victims into paying the demanded ransom promptly.

Ransomware: what is it, how does it work and how to prevent it?

How does a ransomware attack work?

A ransomware attack can be triggered in various scenarios. The most common ones include:

  • Opening a file of suspicious origin.
  • Clicking on a link received via email or SMS.
  • Visiting a website or using an application that redirects you to an infected website. This is known as a drive-by-download and facilitates the download of malicious software onto your computer or network-accessible platform.
  • Clicking on malicious advertisements, also known as malvertising, which insert unwanted code into your device.

Once activated, this extortion method displays a message on the screen, demanding a ransom, usually in the form of bitcoins or another cryptocurrency to make tracking more difficult. 

The problem with this type of criminal procedure is that paying the ransom does not guarantee that you will regain control of your device, resulting in high uncertainty. 

For this reason, experts recommend that ransomware victims do not pay the ransom and instead contact law enforcement agencies for reporting and guidance.

What is Ransomware?

Ransom payment

Ransomware attacks typically involve demanding a ransom payment from the victim in exchange for releasing their device or data. 

The ransom amount can vary widely and is typically requested in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which can make tracking the transactions more challenging. The specific ransom price depends on various factors, including the target’s perceived value, the severity of the attack, and the attackers’ tactics.

It is important to note that paying the ransom does not guarantee that the attackers will honor their end of the bargain and provide access to the compromised device or data. In many cases, victims who pay the ransom do not regain control or have their data fully restored. 


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Additionally, paying the ransom only incentivizes and funds further criminal activities.

Law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity experts strongly discourage paying the ransom. 

Instead, victims are advised to report the incident to the appropriate authorities, such as local law enforcement or cybersecurity response teams, who can offer guidance and assistance in handling the attack.

10 Effective tips to avoid ransomware in businesses

Criminal acts like ransomware result in significant financial and time losses and damage your business’s reputation, potentially jeopardizing its continuity. 

Therefore, it is essential to implement strategies focused on preventing such criminal acts. 

What is a ransomware attack?

Here are some effective recommendations to prevent ransomware:

  1. Do not open any file from an unknown source.
  2. Regularly back up your data to a protected cloud storage or external memory devices that are not connected to the internet or an internal network like an intranet.
  3. Keep your software up to date and patched to avoid security vulnerabilities. Enable automatic updates on your devices.
  4. Disable unused programs or applications.
  5. Properly manage and limit the programs and applications you need to minimize vulnerabilities.
  6. Mitigate risks by using strong passwords that make it difficult for hackers to gain access.
  7. Install antivirus software and ensure it is properly activated on all your devices.
  8. Block the use of remote desktop protocols or strengthen user authentication.
  9. Utilize Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for connections. VPNs provide a secure data transmission and protect your internet privacy.
  10. Train your teams in digital security to make them aware of the risks they face and empower them to prevent them.

At Smowltech, security is one of our top priorities, which is why our proctoring solutions become valuable allies for our clients regarding remote supervision of company activities. 

Request a free demo and discover our innovative and highly effective computer and device activity monitoring solutions.


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