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 dodgy email link sent to you as part of a phishing scam
- there's a vulnerability in some software you're using.
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.