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What are the Different Types of Ransomware?

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Ransomware is malicious software designed to block access to a computer system or files until money is paid. It is important to understand the different types of ransomware and what they can do to identify them and take protective measures against them. This article will provide an overview of the most common types of ransomware and their characteristics.

  • Crypto Ransomware: This ransomware encrypts certain files or entire systems, making them inaccessible without the decryption key held by the attackers. Examples include WannaCry, Petya/NotPetya, Cerber, Locky and CryptoLocker.
  • Locker Ransomware: This ransomware prevents users from temporarily accessing their systems or files by either displaying a pop-up window that requires payment for access or locking down the computer so that no one can log in. Examples include FakeBsod and DMA Locker.
  • Screen locker Ransomware: As its name implies, this malware locks your screen so that you cannot access what lies beneath it until you pay its ransom demand. Examples include Reveton and Urausy.
  • Mobile Ransomware: This ransomware targets mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, encrypting data stored on those devices until it receives payment from its victims. A notable example would be Simplocker, which has been targeting Android devices since 2014.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that blocks access to a victim’s data and systems while extorting money from them. It is often spread through phishing emails, malicious links, or drive-by downloads where a user unknowingly accesses a website hosting the malicious code.

Once the ransomware payload infiltrates a system or device, it begins its encryption process making files inaccessible. Some forms of ransomware can even delete files or restrict access to networks. Once the encryption process is complete, the attackers will demand payment in exchange for unlocking the data they have taken hostage.

Several different types of ransomware vary in their attack vectors and impacts:

  • Locker ransomware: This type of ransomware locks victims out of their entire system by encrypting their accounts and preventing them from logging in.
  • Encryption ransomware: As its name implies, this type of ransomware encrypts files on infected devices and requires victims to pay ransom to unlock it.
  • Screen lockers: Screen lockers keep users locked out of their computer until they pay a ransom fee, with no other way around it.
  • Doxing: Doxing happens when attackers steal personal information and threaten to expose it if their victims do not meet certain conditions or if their demands are not satisfied.
  • File hijacking: Attackers look for shared drives on the network or insecurely accessed cloud computers to steal data through file hijacking techniques known as “estimating” and delete backups, making recovery even more difficult. This can be done manually or by using automated scripts such as Mimikatz.
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Ransomware attacks can cause serious disruption and damage both financially and reputationally. Hence, it’s important to have effective security plans and knowledgeable staff who recognize suspicious behaviour when it appears online.

Types of Ransomware

Ransomware is malware that can steal sensitive data or encrypt victim devices, making them inaccessible until a ransom is paid. According to Google, over 80 million ransomware samples are in the wild.

In this article, we will be exploring the different types of ransomware and how they work:

File Encrypting Ransomware

File Encrypting Ransomware is by far the most common type of ransomware. It is designed to encrypt files on the victim’s computer and demand a ransom payment, usually in cryptocurrency, in exchange for unlocking the files. It works by utilising strong encryption algorithms to scramble the file contents making them inaccessible until the ransom payment is made and decryption is done remotely. Examples include Cryptowall, Locky, CTB-Locker and even some newer variants like GandCrab and Cerber.

Additionally, several advanced forms of ransomware use techniques such as rootkit or boot-kits to achieve deeper levels of infection which greatly increases their effectiveness over regular ransomware infections. Examples of advanced ransomware include Petya and NotPetya which can encrypt your hard drive and essentially render it unusable without a successful decryption process over Wi-Fi or an Internet connection.

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It has never been more important for users to protect their devices from file encrypting ransomware as these types of threats can cause irreparable damage if affected parties do not timely respond to them.

Screen Lockers

Screen Lockers, also known as Scareware, are some of the most commonly encountered forms of ransomware. This type of ransomware prevents victims from accessing their systems and disrupts the normal functioning of computers by locking or freezing the screen.

The purpose of Screen Lockers is to scare users into paying a ransom to regain access to their devices. Screen lockers will generally appear as a pop-up message on a user’s computer informing them that their system has been blocked and is not available for use until a ransom is paid. Additionally, these ransomware forms may demand additional information such as an IP address, email address, location or financial information to unlock the computer. Criminals may use this personal data for malicious activities such as identity theft or other criminal purposes.

These screen locker viruses may also claim that they have encrypted files until a ransom is paid and can also be distributed via phishing emails containing malicious attachments. It is important to remember that opening suspicious emails can result in infection with Screen Locker Ransomware which can cause significant loss of private data if ignored or left untreated.


Crypto-ransomware is one of the oldest and most popular ransomware dating back to around 2005-2006. This ransomware encrypts files on the victim’s computer or devices, making it impossible to access them without a decryption key. Crypto-ransomware usually uses advanced encryption algorithms like AES-128, AES-256, and RSA encryption.

Criminals demand payment from the victim in the form of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin in exchange for a decryption key that will restore their files and data.

The most common crypto-ransomware variants come under FakeAV, Locky, CTB Locker (“Curve-Tor-Bitcoin locker”), Dharma/CrySiS, Globe Imposter/Cerber and Bitpaymer/Ryuk. These malware strains use different techniques to penetrate systems like:

  • Phishing emails with malicious attachments or links.
  • Malvertising campaigns over untrustworthy websites hosting malicious code.
  • Hijackers that assume control over victims’ browsers or home pages.

In addition to data encryption and exorbitant ransom demands — up to thousands of dollars — crypto-ransomware may also be used by criminal gangs as part of larger cyberattacks upon organisations instead of regular individuals.

Mobile Ransomware

Mobile ransomware is a type of malicious software that locks the user’s mobile device and displays a message demanding payment for unlocking the device. Mobile ransomware can be delivered through various methods such as through phishing, third-party applications and malicious websites. It is also spread through direct malware payloads embedded in email attachments, SMS messages, port forwarding and WiFi networks.

Once installed, mobile ransomware typically encrypted sensitive data stored on the device or identifies personal data which is then uploaded to a hacker-controlled remote server. The virus may hold this data hostage until a ransom payment is made. Ransomware can also tolerate other methods to get control over the device again, such as bypassing screen lock passwords, bypassing device wipes and enabling some Android applications to run on rooted devices.

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The most common types of mobile ransomware are:

  • Lock Screen Ransomware – this malware locks your smartphone and/or tablet display with a message demanding you to pay money in exchange for unlocking it. This type of ransomware relies on exploiting easily accessible screen lock features that are already present in many devices but can be strengthened with some security measures like two factor authentication or longer passcodes or patterns.
  • File Encrypting Ransomware – this type of malware encrypts files stored on your smartphone or tablet rather than locking its display itself. In this case, hackers demand payment to decrypt files stored on the device back into usable state as no legitimate decryption key exists apart from what is provided by hackers making ransom payments necessary to restore encrypted files even after deletion of the malware itself from the system.
  • SMS Trojans – SMS Trojans are one form of mobile Ransomware which hijacks Short Messaging System (SMS) messages sent from subscribers’ phones to steal login information or gain access to other accounts established with banks or ecommerce sites resulting into their misuse by unauthorised persons who might demand ransom payments afterwards if they don’t give back control over these accounts unless they receive payments usually via bitcoin transactions which are difficult to trace back thus making them practically anonymous form of money exchange.

Disk Encrypting Ransomware

Disk encrypting ransomware, also known as cryptoviral extortion and cryptoware, is a type of ransomware that attempts to encrypt all files on an affected system. This type of ransomware will also typically lock down the computer so that the user cannot access their system until they pay a ransom to have it unlocked. The amount of money demanded by the attacker depends on the ransomware used.

Once a system or individual device has been infected with disk encrypting ransomware, the files on the affected device may be completely inaccessible, at least temporarily. In some cases, attackers will employ methods such as file shredding or other secure deletion methods to ensure that victims cannot recover their data without paying the ransom. Attackers may also use this encryption method to access other systems and networks within an organisation.

Attackers will generally require victims to pay a fee for a key that can unlock encrypted files or entire networks to regain access to their encrypted data and systems. Depending upon the attacker’s demands, this fee may range from hundreds of dollars up to thousands – after which they promise they will provide decryption software or unlocking key. It is important for victims not to pay this money as it perpetuates an ecosystem wherein attackers have financial incentive to attack more due their return-on-investment made through extorting victims’ payments just looking to regain access to their data.

Data Wiping Ransomware

Data wiping ransomware is one of the many dangerous types of ransomware that has been used to target personal and business networks. This malware erases or corrupts data by overwriting existing files on different areas of a compromised computer’s hard drive. Victims must pay the ransom to regain access to the affected data to get a decryption key.

Data wiping ransomware can be divided into two categories: exploiting vulnerabilities and infecting through malicious attachments. Exploiting known vulnerabilities means that hackers exploit existing backdoors in operating systems or applications to gain access to vulnerable systems. On the other hand, infecting through malicious attachments involves sending out emails containing malicious links or attachments that lead victims to downloading malware once clicked on or opened.

Other methods of delivering ransomware include entering an infected website via ads and using social engineering tactics such as personalised phishing emails, instant messages, and SMS messages that contain malicious links or attachments. Additionally, certain networks may be vulnerable due to improper security controls.

Publicly-known data wiping ransomware include WannaCry, NotPetya/ExPert/GoldenEye, BlackEnergy 2 (Isai) CryptoDefense/CryptoWall infection and viruses like BadRabbit etc.. All these variants encrypt multiple files with specific file extensions such as .docx/.ppt/.xlsx etc., making them inaccessible until the victim pays for a decryption key via cryptocurrency payments demanding ransoms for recovery of affected machines with amounts ranging from hundreds up to thousands of dollars in some cases.

Google analysed 80 million ransomware samples

In 2020, Google released a remarkable analysis of over 80 million ransomware samples. They highlighted five distinct ransomware families they had identified, and the findings shed light on some of the most common types of ransomware. This article will take a deeper look at those five ransomware families and some of the other common types of ransomware identified by cyber security researchers.

The five ransomware families identified by Google are:

  • Family 1
  • Family 2
  • Family 3
  • Family 4
  • Family 5

Other common types of ransomware include:

  • Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)
  • Encrypting ransomware
  • Locker ransomware
  • Mobile ransomware
  • Scareware

Overview of 80 Million Ransomware Samples

In a recent blog post, Google published an analysis of over 80 million ransomware samples. Based on their findings, there are four main types of ransomware commonly used by cybercriminals today:

  • Crypto Ransomware: This ransomware encrypts files with a unique encryption key to deny access until the victim pays the ransom. Common samples include STOP/DJVU, Fury and Mole ransomwares.
  • Locker Ransomware: This ransomware locks victims out of their systems by changing passwords or displaying false warning messages. Samples from this family include AZORult and Globe imposter.
  • Fake AV Ransomware: This type utilises false warnings and scan results to scare users into buying “full versions” to remove malware files that don’t even exist on their computer. Common samples include Advanced System Protector and XP Antivirus 2021.
  • Directory Locker Ransomware: This type works by locking folders on the user’s drive with an encryption key and denying access until the victim pays the ransom. Samples from this family include Apocalypse, CTB-Locker, Crybola and CryptoCastle.

These four types represent just a fraction of the ransomware families. Still, they remain some of the most utilised strains today because they are effective yet simple to develop and deploy in large numbers. Furthermore, malware authors have been able to monetize their attacks with these threats more effectively than other malware families due to their strong network effect caused by successful malicious campaigns like WannaCry or NotPetya in 2017 which garnered widespread attention from both victims and security researchers alike worldwide.

Findings from Google’s Analysis

Google’s security team analysed over 450,000 ransomware samples collected between May 2019 and June 2020 to gain insight into the different types of ransomware threats that are out there. The findings suggest that ransomware variants have increased significantly over the last two years, indicating a shift from single-type attacks to multi-type attacks.

The analysis further revealed that ransomware creators focused increasingly on sophisticated attack techniques, such as file encryption, ‘fileless’ attacks, and user account locking. Additionally, most variants used targeted processes and files protected by a professional anti-malware solution for Windows systems. This demonstrates how criminals are becoming more knowledgeable about computer security measures to up their gaming and potential profits from these criminal activities.

The findings also highlighted how users can protect themselves from ransomware threats. Apart from investing in advanced anti-malware solutions and backup systems, Google suggests that users exercise caution while downloading applications or opening email attachments or links from unfamiliar sources. Additionally, it is recommended that organisations regularly audit their cyber security practices to patch any vulnerable points that could potentially be exploited by attackers launching various ransomware campaigns.

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