ransomware: noun uncountable
Ransomware has been the most pervasive cyber threat since 2005.
A ransomware named WannaCry stormed through the web, with the damage epicenter being in Europe.
The first ransomware specimens were discovered in Russia between 2005 and 2006.
On Friday of last week, NHS employees across the UK logged on to find that their computer networks had been taken over by ransomware, leading to widespread cancellations of operations, hospital and GP appointments. The NHS was not the only target. Workers at thousands of businesses, public organizations and even government departments around the globe were presented with onscreen messages stating that the data on their computers had been encrypted and would only be unlocked on payment of $300 in the virtual currency bitcoin. Payment is, of course, no guarantee that the data will be unlocked, as cybercriminals are not known for their scrupulous honouring of contracts.
The ransomware known as WannaCry, the name an accurate reflection of its victims’ feelings, exploited vulnerabilities in elderly Windows operating systems discovered by US security agencies and released into the public domain last year. A patch had quickly been made available but businesses and organizations had failed to apply it.
Ransomware, like the similar term malware of which it is a type, is a blend of two words, ransom and software. The earliest versions were developed between the mid 1980s and 1990s but ransomware attacks only became frequent in the mid 2000s.