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Volume IconWhat is ransomware?

People, organizations and the government are always on the guard against malware. And, of the lot, ransomware is among the most notorious. Watch this report to know more about the growing menace

ImageBhaswar Kumar New Delhi
Dealing with the WannaCry ransomware attack

The world has been embroiled in a different kind of battle for decades now. There is no exchange of shots here, and there is no bloodshed either. But what people, private entities and government organizations lose if they slip is no less than their blood. It is their hard-earned money and the reputation that is at stake.

It is the virtual world and most of the inhabitants here are up against scary malwares. And for the creators of these bugs, ransomware is most lucrative.

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According to research from Unit 42 by Palo Alto Networks, the global cybersecurity leader, ransomware payments hit new records in 2021.

India saw a 218% rise in ransomware attacks in 2021. The 2022 Unit 42 Ransomware Threat Report has revealed that India ranks 10th globally when it comes to the number of ransomware attacks. More worrisome is the fact that it ranks second in the Japan and Asia-Pacific (geographic region).  

But what happens when your system falls prey to ransomware. It is scary. The hacker holds your files and data, including sensitive information, hostage until you pay up.

Basically, ransomware, better known as ransomware, is a type of malware that prevents you from accessing your personal files or system. In simple terms, your critical data gets encrypted so that you cannot access files, applications, and databases. As McAfee explains, ransomware involves the use of asymmetric encryption. A pair of keys is used to encrypt and decrypt the files or data targeted.  Then it demands that you pay a ransom in order to regain access.

Once it enters your system, the ransomware searches and encrypts valuable files. Everything from Microsoft Word documents, databases and images are compromised. The ransomware can also take advantage of network vulnerabilities to spread to other systems. It can even spread across entire organisations.

The attacker generates a unique public-private pair of keys for the victim. The private key needed to decrypt the files is stored on the attacker’s server. After the ransom is paid, the attacker provides the private key to the victim.

It is almost impossible to decrypt the files or data that are being held hostage without access to the private key.

After the files have been encrypted, the ransomware demands that the victim pay up a ransom within 24 to 48 hours to decrypt them. If they don’t, the targeted files will be lost forever.  

How does ransomware enter your system in the first place? According to kaspersky, the most common infection routes for ransomware are visiting malicious websites, unwanted add-ons during downloads, and downloading malicious attachments.

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First Published: Mar 29 2022 | 8:45 AM IST

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