ran·​som·​ware ˈran(t)-səm-ˌwer How to pronounce ransomware (audio)
: 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 The Maryland Department of Health’s Office for Health Care Quality has collected limited information on harmful events since the ransomware attack, from which the agency is still working to recover. Katie Shepherd, Washington Post, 24 Sep. 2023 Royal, the ransomware group city officials have identified as the culprit of the cyberattack, was encrypting files and making ransom requests, according to the city. Everton Bailey Jr., Dallas News, 8 Sep. 2023 The unidentified ransomware group behind the attack reportedly wants 6 bitcoins ($157,914), but CloudNordic has refused to pay. Michael Kan, PCMAG, 24 Aug. 2023 Hodge was referring to a series of executive orders, some motivated by concerns over SolarWinds, commercial software used widely by the U.S. government that was breached by a Russian surveillance operation, and the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack by a Russian criminal group. David E. Sanger, BostonGlobe.com, 29 July 2023 While both are significant, experts emphasize that the fallout from this pair of prominent hacks fits into a broader context of ransomware attacks as a ubiquitous, unrelenting, and inveterate threat. WIRED, 16 Sep. 2023 Las Vegas casinos targeted in ransomware attack Sept. 14, 202301:51 Those hackers do not have a clear public internet presence and could not be reached for comment. Kevin Collier, NBC News, 15 Sep. 2023 When the inspector general’s office asked about the changes, a DPW supervisor noted that DPW billing operations were temporarily interrupted because of the ransomware attack against the city and during the coronavirus pandemic. Christine Condon, Baltimore Sun, 12 Sep. 2023 The group is accused of hitting hospitals with ransomware attacks amid the coronavirus pandemic. Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 7 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ransomware.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

2005, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ransomware was in 2005

Dictionary Entries Near ransomware

Cite this Entry

“Ransomware.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransomware. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!