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What is Ransomware? - Definition, Removal & Examples

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

In this lesson, we'll take a look at ransomware, what it is, how to remove it, and some examples. At the end, you should have a good understanding of this invasive technology.

The Dark and the Light

We live in a world that is basically good. For most of us, doing right by others goes without saying. We help our neighbors when they need an extra pair of hands, we shovel snow for the elderly couple next door, and we even help old ladies across the street. We can't help it, we were raised that way. But where there's light, there is also dark. There is a bad element that lives in the shadows whose purpose is diametrically opposed to ours. Their goal is to do wrong by others and profit from it. There is, of course, no shortage of ways to do just that. One, in particular, is ransomware.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious computer software that affects the ability of a user to access things like:

  • Computers - Access rights are changed so that you can't log in anymore.
  • Parts of Computers - The ability to access printers, webcams, and the Internet is disabled.
  • Information - Access to one or more data files is restricted, usually by encrypting them with a password that is unknown to you.

Once this access has been restricted, the software informs the user that they can regain access by paying a fee (a ransom, hence the name). The significance of this type of activity can't be understated. If you disagree, just think of how much trouble it would cause if you lost access to the contact list on your cell phone, or your appointment schedule on your desktop computer. For most, the effects would be problematic at the very least.

How Do You Remove Ransomware?

As you might expect, the removal of ransomware isn't easy and depends on the type of ransomware. If it were easy, it wouldn't be profitable for the attacker. Once infected, the only real recourse you have is to pay the ransom. But, there are no guarantees that you will regain access. A better approach is to protect your system from ransomware ever gaining access. Some things you can do include:

  • Avoid Suspicious Websites - If the website doesn't look proper, don't go to it. Malicious websites often try to install viruses and malware.
  • Avoid Email Attachments - Malware is often embedded within email message attachments. If it doesn't look right, don't open it.
  • Avoid Suspicious Webpage Links - If the link doesn't look proper, don't click it. Malicious website pages often try to install viruses or similar.
  • Use Protection Software - Malware protection software is available from notable companies like Symantec, Norton, and BitDefender.

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