To combat the ransomware epidemic, everyone at your organization needs a “general understanding of what cyber threats look like, how we can follow best practices, and that it’s really up to all of us to help keep these networks secure,” explains Jamie Winterton, director of strategy at the Global Security Initiative at Arizona State University.

What is a ransomware virus? Ransomware is a form of social engineering that uses innocent-looking links and attachments to unleash malicious viruses on your computer, device or network.

How does ransomware work? Ransomware activates when we click on a link, download a file or open an attachment in a legitimate-looking email. Our own action launches a virus that encrypts data or denies access. Then pesky perpetrators demand payment to undo the damage. Technology provides an important line of defense, provided you update regularly. “A patch management plan…helps manage updates for your software,” notes Jessica Robinson, CEO of PurePoint International.

What are some common ransomware examples?

Here’s a quick look at five common forms of ransomware:

1. Crypto ransomware – like WannaCry, Wanna Decryptor or WCry – encrypts data stored on your computer or network so you can’t access it without a decryption key. You may not know you have it until you attempt to open a file or access a database.
2. Web server encrypting ransomware uses content management systems as the “infection vector” to access your web server, encrypt the files on it and make your sites unusable.
3. Locker ransomware seizes your machine’s UI so your mouse and keyboard don’t work – well, except for the keypad, so you can enter the payment code. Sneaky! At least this tactic usually leaves your data alone.
4. Blocker ransomware keeps you from accessing browser windows, UI or apps. It’s predominantly used to slam mobile devices, making them virtually useless. Talk about disruptive.
5. Master boot record ransomware – like Satana and Petya – infects the part of your hard drive that starts your computer so instead of booting normally, it displays the ransom demand. You can’t pass go till you pay the toll.