Technology enthusiasts often tend to confuse the terms of ransomware and malware. The recent cyber attacks affecting thousands of computers and servers around the world are a clear example of ransomware. Even though every type of ransomware is also a malware family, there are some differences people need to take into account at all times.
As the name suggests, malware is an abbreviation for “malicious software”. This type of software is deployed by criminals to disrupt computer or mobile operations and gain privileged information without user consent. Moreover, malware is often used for unwanted advertising purposes and remotely accessing private computer systems. Remote Access Trojans, for example, are a type of malware that achieve unauthorized access to computers. This method has been quite popular as of late.
Most people have dealt with malware even before it became a term. In the early days of consumer adoption of home computers, malware was known as computer viruses. Very little has changed ever since, although the number of different malware types has only grown bigger as time progressed. Malware is often distributed in a parasitic form, as it latches itself onto perfectly legitimate software, most preferably executable content.
As we have grown accustomed to over the past few years, malware is always defined by its sheer malicious intent. There is no type of malware not looking to do harm in some kind, although not all of these attempts are a direct result of looking for financial gain. Every malware type acts against the computer user’s wishes and requirements, and it can be quite difficult to get rid of this malicious software at times.
On paper, ransomware is just one of the many types of malware, although it stands out as a category of its own. Ransomware effectively holds entire computers hostage until a financial transaction occurs between the victim and the criminal. Files are often held ransom through encryption, and victims can only obtain the decryption key by completing said financial transfer.
However, as we have learned in recent years, paying the ransom is not always the solution. There is no guarantee of the criminals effectively providing the decryption key even when the money has changed hands. Ransomware developers will often demand a payment to make in Bitcoin, even though it is not an anonymous payment method by any means.
Despite this popular trend, it is worth nothing not every type of ransomware will demand a cryptocurrency payment either. Some types of ransomware demand a gift card code or other anonymous online payment option. Criminals will always find a way to extort computer users who do not take security precautions seriously, and ransomware seems to be the preferred tool right now.
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