ran·​som·​ware | \ ˈran(t)-səm-ˌwer How to pronounce ransomware (audio) \

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

Norwegian aluminum and energy company Norsk Hydro ASA confirmed that hackers used a relatively new form of ransomware known as LockerGoga in a March 19 cyberattack that crippled the company’s global operations. Catherine Stupp, WSJ, "Norsk Hydro Repairs Systems and Investigates After Ransomware Attack," 9 Apr. 2019 The report didn’t identify the name or strain of the ransomware, which generally encrypts computer hard drives and demands a payment by digital currency to decrypt it. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Shipping company’s networks in the Americas crippled by ransomware attack," 26 July 2018 The best backups keep creating versions of a company's files that can be accessed in the event of ransomware — eliminating the need to pay data thieves. Joyce M. Rosenberg, USA TODAY, "Small businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks, then don't act, new survey finds," 18 June 2018 The City of Atlanta was hit with a different form of ransomware last week and was still reeling from the fallout on Wednesday. Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, "Boeing Possibly Hit by ‘WannaCry’ Malware Attack," 28 Mar. 2018 The 38-year-old Russian’s botnet, which dated back to 2010, spanned more than 10,000 machines and was primarily used to send out spam, steal logins, distribute ransomware, and more. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Russian man pleads guilty, admits he ran notorious Kelihos botnet," 13 Sep. 2018 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

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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ransom theory





Statistics for ransomware

Last Updated

21 Apr 2019

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The first known use of ransomware was in 2005

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something valued as if it were money

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