ran·​som·​ware | \ ˈran(t)-səm-ˌwer \

Definition of ransomware

: malware that requires the victim to pay a ransom to access encrypted files In September of 2013, security for small accounting offices changed forever with the appearance of a new class of threats called ransomware. … you open a file attached to an innocent-looking e-mail, and the program encrypts key files and drives so they cannot be accessed. The files are locked until you pay a ransom.— Dave Mcclure With ransomware, a hacker slips into a system, then puts encryption controls in place that locks users out. The hackers then demand money to "unlock" the data.— Elizabeth Millard Today's ransomware scammers often demand payment in bitcoin because the digital currency is easy to use, fast and provides a heightened anonymity for the scammers, according to the FBI warning.— Susan Tompor

Examples of ransomware in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Ars will update this story if those outages were ransomware-related. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "Baltimore’s 911 system, Boeing join Atlanta in week of crypto-malware outbreaks," 29 Mar. 2018 Though investigators now believe the Petya worm was designed simply to cause disruption, most ransomware is designed to make money. Cameron Mcwhirter, WSJ, "Atlanta Hit With Cyberattack," 23 Mar. 2018 Then came another piece of malware that at first appeared to also be ransomware. David Meyer, Fortune, "Russia Blamed for 'Costliest Cyberattack in History': What You Need to Know," 16 Feb. 2018 Newsletter Sign-up Media companies are hit regularly with ransomware attacks, which digitally encrypt files on computers, rendering them unusable until the victim pays a ransom, Mr. Hultquist said. Benjamin Mullin And Robert Mcmillan, WSJ, "Tribune Publishing Fights Cyberattack, Resumes On-Time Deliveries," 30 Dec. 2018 The incident is the latest in a series of ransomware attacks against U.S. targets. James Rogers, Fox News, "San Diego port targeted in ransomware attack," 28 Sep. 2018 However, since then, their crimes have been much more financial in nature, including the theft of $81 million in the Bangladesh Bank robbery and the WannaCry ransomware attacks. Jon Porter, The Verge, "North Korea-linked hackers stole tens of millions from ATMs across the world," 8 Nov. 2018 In the worst case scenario, ransomware may prevent you from opening favorite files. Kim Komando, Fox News, "7 clear-cut signs you've been hacked," 5 May 2018 Acting through a front organization, Park and others allegedly broke into Sony Pictures, and also created the WannaCry 2.0 ransomware, which, when released, damaged computer systems in 150 countries. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "US charges North Korean man in Sony hack and WannaCry ransomware attack," 6 Sep. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ransomware.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ransomware

2005, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

10 Feb 2019

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The first known use of ransomware was in 2005

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