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What the ‘Hack’ Is Ransomware?

Cybersecurity is already a billion-dollar industry in America. But even with all this investment from companies, most cybersecurity systems aren’t as infallible as we thought: In the past month, there have been at least three massive ransomware attacks on American companies from Eastern European hackers. The Colonial Pipeline CEO just paid a $4.4 million ransom to the criminal group DarkSide after they broke into the fuel supplier’s system. So, what is ransomware? Why is it so effective?

What even is ransomware?

Ransomware is pretty self-explanatory: It’s a combination of the words ransom and software, something designed to block access to a computer system until a ransom is paid. Cybercriminal groups use this strategy to hijack big companies or agencies and return the system for large sums of money.

The thing is, these ransomware attacks have huge repercussions outside of the directly affected companies. Take the Colonial Pipeline attack, for example. The hijacking caused this huge fuel pipeline to shut down, leading to panic-buying and rising gas prices across America.

How phishing targets employees

Yet, the main tactics of these hacker groups have mainly stayed the same. One of the most common ways they gain entry into a computer system is through phishing. Hackers will send fake emails to company employees; these messages are designed to give the hackers access to the company’s computer system.

So, regardless of the amount of technology invested in cybersecurity, a big part of combating these attacks is up to employees. And with healthcare, transportation and education systems being targeted, it is more important than ever for people to be aware of what ransomware attacks are and how to prevent them.

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