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

Our security research group at Michigan State University is presently focused on researching ransomware and cryptojacking—the two biggest threats to user security in 2018. Richard Enbody, Scientific American, "Cryptojacking Spreads Across the Web," 9 May 2018 Add this to the long list of concerns surrounding self-driving cars, which includes hacking, ransomware, and privacy breaches. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, "Inside Waymo’s strategy to grow the best brains for self-driving cars," 9 May 2018 More recently, compromised websites have been used to install ransomware or malware that surreptitiously mines cryptocurrency. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Thousands of hacked websites are infecting visitors with malware," 11 Apr. 2018 Health care is a prime target for hacks, ransomware, and other assorted digital delinquency. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Brainstorm Health: Glaxo Spurns Pfizer, Drugs on Your Fingertips," 23 Mar. 2018 Companies around the world last year scrambled to respond to devastating ransomware and other high-profile hacks. Samantha Ehlinger, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio companies offer perspective on cyber investigations," 20 Feb. 2018 For the second time in a month, websites that use the Drupal content management system are confronted with a stark choice: install a critical update or risk having your servers infected with ransomware or other nasties. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Drupal users take cover—code-execution bug is being actively exploited [updated]," 25 Apr. 2018 And from their perspective, ransomware is hopefully more profitable. NBC News, "Is the cloud a safe place for all your private data?," 9 Apr. 2018 But the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a cybersecurity clearing house for state and local governments, has said that ransomware is now the biggest digital threat its members face. Alan Blinder And Nicole Perlroth, New York Times, "Hard Choice for Cities Under Cyberattack: Whether to Pay Ransom," 29 Mar. 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

22 Sep 2018

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The first known use of ransomware was in 2005

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