What is Ransomware? | What Is IT?

You wake up, turn on your computer, and there it is-- A menacing message informing you that the data on your computer is encrypted. The only way to unlock it is to pay up. You're now the victim of Ransomware

Ransomware -- A modern day digital abduction and security expert, Ian Marlow, said these hackers have little sympathy.

"The level of non-morality from the people that are using this- They care about the $300 that they are asking for,” said Ian Marlow.

A criminal kidnapping used to refer to taking people’s information and paying up.

The Ransomware hold-up is similar to the concept of credit and identity theft.

"The secret to Ransomware is that it's not what the data is worth to someone else. It's what the data worth to you to pay in order to ransom it,” said Adam Levin, who specializes in credit and identity theft.

Examples date back to 2012 with the Reveton strain that claimed a law enforcement agency discovered the computer has been used for illegal activities -- so pay up.

There was also Cryptolocker in 2013 where hackers threatened to delete information if you didn't send money to a Bitcoin account.         

Most of those hacks originated from clicking on an erroneous email or visiting a compromised site.

"The old way-- we saw them come through. In this instance, the software itself knows whether you have the vulnerability. It starts to search for everything else that has that vulnerability,” said Ian Marlow.

What do you do if the worm finds you?

"Immediately turn your computer off to stop infecting the rest of your network," said Marlow.

Marlow, who owns of the cybersecurity firm Fitech, said the best defense is early planning for an inevitable attack.

"The key is for people to understand and have them segregated from their current network. You're able to restore yourself and not beholden to the ransomware,” he said,

“This is here. I guarantee you there's something three steps ahead of this.”