Financial Answer Center

When Files Are Held for Ransom

How Does Ransomware Work?

This business owner lost his files to ransomware called CryptoLocker. Ransomware is malware that infects a computer’s hard drive and encrypts the files stored there. Users are locked out of their files unless they pay a ransom, usually in the form of internet currency or another untraceable method. The ransom usually increases if the user doesn’t pay the ransom within a certain amount of time, and the files are permanently lost if the ransom remains unpaid. Files cannot be unlocked, even by security experts, once they are infected with ransomware, and the malware can spread to an entire network if the computer is connected to one, such as at a place of business.

In most cases, ransomware can be removed but the files cannot be recovered. Fines range from $50 or $60 to hundreds. According to security company Symantec, cybercriminals may earn in excess of $30,000 per day using this scheme.

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