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Ransomware is a type of malicious software that denies a user access to their files or computer system unless they pay a ransom.

What it is

Ransomware is used to extort money from people. It's a type of malicious software (or 'malware') that denies you access to your files or computer system unless you pay a ransom to get it back. In some cases, the attacker will also threaten to leak your private data to the public if you don't pay them.

This type of attack can target anyone – it's just as likely to target individuals as it is a business or a large organisation.

How it works

Ransomware gets into your computer in the same way that malware or a virus does, for example if:

  • you click on a link or open an attachment sent to you as part of an email scam
  • you enter your credentials into a scam website
  • there's a in some you're using.


Phishing email scams

The first sign of an attack is often a text file pop up or an email (or occasionally a background screen on your computer) that tells you you've been ransomwared. Or, you may suddenly be unable to access or open any of your files.

The attacker will then demand that you pay a 'ransom' before you can get access to either your files or your computer back.

We don't recommend anyone pay a ransom like this, because there's no guarantee you’ll get your data back if you do. Paying a ransom could also put you at risk of further attack, because if an attacker sees that you're willing to pay them, they could try to target you again.