Hands up…your computer is being held hostage

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and may not reflect the official policy or position of Excelsior College. Excelsior makes no claim regarding the suitability of the content for all audiences.


One of the growing problems with cybersecurity in 2015 and again this year is that of ransomware. Imagine if you suddenly had a message appear on your screen notifying you that all the data in your computer was now encrypted. To gain access to it you needed to pay a certain amount of money (usually in bit coins), at which point you would be sent an electronic ‘key’ to decrypt your data. Maybe, maybe, you would get the key and recover your data….and maybe you won’t. That is how ransomware works and it is a growing problem that effects individuals as well as businesses.

Like nearly all attacks on a digital system, the attack comes via the Internet. In most cases the user of the computer opens an email that contains the malware. Once launched, the malicious code begins encrypting your data and sends you the dreaded ransom message.

How can ransomware be avoided? Simply by being cautious with all the emails you open. Those with malicious intent are clever and won’t send you an email with a suspicious and obvious subject or sender title. Instead they will disguise their email as coming from someone you know or do business with. For example, you will receive an email, Sender – US Postal Service, Subject – Undelivered mail. Often in such messages there will also be an attachment that the message requires you to open….don’t do it..as the attachment will contain the malware.

So, avoid ransomware and other viruses by simply doing what cyber experts have been telling you for years….use caution with your emails and don’t invite trouble into your life.


About Jane LeClair

Jane is currently a Senior Advisor for the National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College in Washington, DC. Previously, she served as dean of the school of Business and Technology at Excelsior College in Albany, NY. She is a vocal advocate for attracting and retaining more women in the technology fields and established the Dr. Jane A. LeClair Scholarship Fund for Women in Technology at Excelsior College in 2012.

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  • Duke Vukadinovic

    I think that the best course of action we can take in this situations is to use an offline anti-malware scanner to detect and remove the Trojan horse malware that is holding our system hostage. If the Ransomware is the non-encrypting type, then our chances of successfully removing the malware are likely higher than if our data has been encrypted by an encrypting form of Ransomware.