How Ransomware Works

There’s been a lot of talk about Ransomware recently, so here’s some information about what they are and how they work.


  1. A mass email is sent containing malicious code. Often this is hidden inside  or disguised as a zip file, word or excel document attachment
  2. Once opened, the code contacts a central server and begins its work, encrypting your documents so you can no longer open them
  3. Whilst encrypting your documents, the code will send out more emails from your PC so it can spread itself
  4. When finished working on your hard drive, the malware begins work on network connected drives and other devices it can see over the network
  5. Once it has finished encrypting you’ll see a message telling you that your files are being held to ransom, and that to get them back you must pay using an untraceable internet currency called Bitcoin.

Like traditional kidnappers and ransomers, there is no guarantee  that paying the ransom will result in getting back what you want. More often payment simply leads to demands for more and more payment and no final resolution.

Unlike traditional ransomers and kidnappers there IS a way to get back what you want, because data, unlike things and people, can be easily copied. The key is proper prior preparation.


We highly recommend a 2-pronged approach to ransomware:

  1. Preventing contraction, involving
    1. Technical solutions including antivirus, anti-malware and anti-ransomware software, along with other security settings and techniques to minimise the risk of these software being able to run successfully should they get anywhere near your computer
    2. Human solutions, including education and training of staff
  2. Preventing payment – which simply means having suitable and appropriate backup solutions ins place to restore encrypted data so that you don’t have to pay to get your data back.

Both of these require action before you contract a ransomware – after is just too damn late!


So please don’t be naive and think “It will never happen to me”. Just like car insurance, you hope you never need it – but the chances are that at some point you will.