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Crypto Glossary: Ransomware

Definition: Ransomware is a form of malicious software (malware) that employs encryption to seize control of victim data, rendering it inaccessible. Perpetrators demand a ransom from victims in exchange for the decryption key, often demanding payment in cryptocurrency to obscure their identities.

Key Concepts and Terminology:

  1. Crypto-Ransomware Attacks: Ransomware attacks typically follow a specific pattern:
    • Delivery: Cybercriminals introduce the malware to a user’s device through various means, such as malicious email links, compromised accounts, or software vulnerabilities.
    • Encryption: The malware encrypts some or all of the data on the victim’s device. Generally, essential system files are left intact to ensure the device’s functionality.
    • Ransom Note: Perpetrators leave a ransom note on the victim’s device, containing contact information and payment instructions. Payment is usually demanded in cryptocurrency.
    • Data Exfiltration: Some ransomware variants steal victim files before encrypting them, using the threat of data publication as leverage, a tactic known as leakware or doxware.
  2. Malware: A contraction of “malicious software,” malware encompasses various forms of software designed to harm or compromise computer systems. Ransomware falls under this broad category of harmful software.
  3. Attack Vectors: Ransomware can be distributed through various means, including email spam campaigns and targeted attacks. Attackers exploit vulnerabilities or user behavior to gain access to systems before deploying ransomware.
  4. Encryption: Ransomware employs encryption algorithms to lock victim data. Encryption makes the data unreadable without the decryption key, which only the attacker possesses.
  5. Ransom Payment: Cybercriminals demand a ransom from victims in exchange for the decryption key. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are commonly used for their anonymity and difficulty in tracing transactions.
  6. Impact on Organizations: Ransomware is a significant threat to organizations as it can rapidly spread across networks, targeting databases and files. This can result in operational disruptions and financial losses.
  7. Crypto and Ransomware: Cryptocurrencies are favored by ransomware attackers as the preferred method for receiving ransom payments. Transactions in cryptocurrencies are difficult to trace, providing anonymity to criminals.

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