What is Ransomware Attacks ? Meaning, Types, and Stages

There are numerous types of cyber security threats that perpetrators use to attack their victims. One commonly employed threat type is ransomware. This blog dives into it and clarifies everything you need to know for effective ransomware attacks  prevention.

What Is the Meaning of Ransomware Attacks ?

Ransomware is a type of malware attack technique that cybercriminals use to block victims’ access to sensitive data. They restore access to the data once the victim pays the money the malware authors demand as ransom.

What Are The Types of Ransomware Attacks ?

To attack their victims and make them pay the ransom, ransomware perpetrators use different techniques. Here are the most common types of cryptoworm variants:.

Ransomware attacks - 5 Types
  1.  Crypto Ransomware:

Among ransomware attacks, crypto ransomware, or encryptor, is the most common type. Here, the perpetrator encrypts the victims’ files. Once the victim agrees to their demand for ransom, they get the decryption key to access the files again.

  1.  Lockers:

Here, the attacker accesses the victims’ system and locks it so that the latter can’t access it. When the victim turns the system on, they see the ransom demand from the attacker, often with a countdown to act urgently.

  1. Scareware:

Scareware is malicious software that gets installed on users’ systems through their visits to infected websites. It sends pop-ups claiming the system has a virus and demands payment to remove it

  1. Doxware:

Sometimes, cybercriminals use Doxware, also known as Leakware, to cause people to panic and make them pay ransom. Here, they access people’s sensitive data and threaten to share it publicly unless the demanded ransom is paid.

  1.  RaaS (Ransomware as a Service):

Ransomware as a Service is one of the sophisticated cryptoworm variants that has the tools and features to access a victim’s sensitive data, execute attacks, and use dedicated gateways to receive the ransom.

5 Stages of Ransomware Attack

A ransomware Attacks  campaign is executed in multiple stages. Knowing these stages is important for effective ransomware attacks protection.

  1. Gaining system access:

Gaining the victim’s system is the first step in the cryptoware  timeline. The attacker uses different methods, like phishing emails, infected websites, worms, etc., to gain access to a victim’s system.

  1. Establishing control:

Once access has been gained, the attacker moves on to establishing control of the system. It enables them to do what they intend to on the victim’s computer through cryptoware simulation.

  1. Accessing sensitive data:

The attacker, who goes unnoticed by the victim, starts to access the sensitive data or files that the victim has stored on their computer. They try to get access to the maximum number of files and accounts linked to the network. 

  1. Encrypting or exfiltrating data:

The attacker uses the malicious virus or cryptoware that they have installed on the victim’s system to encrypt or lock the data, ensuring that the victims can no longer use or access it.

  1. Ransom demanding:

In the final stage of the act, the attacker extorts the victim, threatening them to pay the ransom so as not to lose the sensitive data. To cause panic in the victim, they often do it with a countdown timer.

How to Protect Against Ransomware?

Preventing ransomware attacks  in the first place is always better than searching for what to do when you get cryptoware. Here are some effective strategies for cryptoworm protection:. 

  • Stay away from opening emails landing in your inbox from unverified sources. Report such emails after you verify that they are not from authorized senders. 
  • Keep your employees educated on the common techniques in the cryptoware marketplaces so they know when they run into any suspicious attacker behavior. 
  • Never click on the embedded links in emails without verifying the sender and the purpose. 
  • Create a company policy to discourage staff from accessing certain websites or running applications on company systems that are infamous for ransomware attacks. 
  • Keep your systems and all software or applications installed on them up-to-date. It will ensure you are protected against any vulnerabilities they are exposed to. 
  • Make use of the 3-2-1 rule to back up your important files. That is, creating three different copies of the files and storing them respectively on two different media (hard disk or cloud) as well as one off-site location. 
  • Prevent or limit shared access to sensitive data. The first thing ransomware attackers do after accessing a system is to look for shared files in order to gain access to other devices.

Most Commonly Seen Ransomware Attacks Variants

Most Commonly Seen Ransomware Attacks Variants


WannaCry was first reported as cryptoware in 2017. It exploits a Windows vulnerability. Once installed on a system, it can spread quickly and access other systems in the network. It demands Bitcoin as a ransom in its recent  ransomware attacks.  


CryptoLocker is another notorious ransomware  attacks that follows the same methods as WannaCry, encrypting victims’ files and demanding Bitcoin as a ransom for the decryption key. Victims get exposed to it through malicious email attachments.


 Petya is an advanced ransomware  attacks that comes with the capability to access the victim’s hard drive and subsequently control the master boot. It will block the entire system for the victim until a ransom is paid.


 NotPetya works in the same style as Petya, taking access to the hard drive and master boot. However, it causes more harm to the victim by wiping out all data about the user even after the payment is done.


Perpetrators use the sophisticated cryptoworm called Ryuk mostly against large organizations. It possesses the capabilities and functionalities to access and take control of large chunks of data within an organization, causing disruption to their operations.


Revil, known as Sodinokibi, is another cryptoworm known for its targeting of high-profile users, especially organizations. The attacker first encrypts the files they have accessed and threatens to leave them to make their victim pay the ransom.


Ransomware attacks are a heinous cyberattack model that criminals use these days to extort their victims and make money out of that.  Staying vigilant and informed of what can make us more susceptible to cryptoware is indeed the best ransomware attacks protection strategy. We hope this blog gave you a clear picture of ransomware attacks, what it is, and all questions pertaining to ransomware  attacks protection.

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Jim Jacob

Jim Jacob is the founder of Cyberguard. He is an IT professional who has 21 years of professional experience in the tech field. Cybergurad is the product of his vision to share the knowledge gained from his career through the power of words. He is an expert at explaining complex tech concepts in simple language and has written numerous articles on IT and Cybersecurity.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Ransomware attacks is a sophisticated tool or malicious software that cybercriminals use to attack a victim’s system and extort money from them.

    Ransomware, once it has been installed on a victim’s computer, first establishes a connection between the victim’s system and the attacker’s computer. Once a proper communication channel is created, the perpetrator can go through all kinds of important files on the victim’s system, identify what is sensitive, and then encrypt or lock them for the victim so as to extort their money.

    If you know that your system has been infected by ransomware, there is a high risk of your sensitive files getting compromised. Don’t panic. Seek the support of a professional cybersecurity company for help. They have the know-how of ransomware what to do and. They will usually scan the system; identify the type and degree of threat the system is subject to and devise the right strategy for what to do against ransomware specifically found in your system.

    Numerous types of ransomwares exist, varying in the form of attacks and the nature of extorting money from the victims. One common type is Crypto Ransomware. Examples of ransomware working in this model include Locky, WannaCry, and Petya.  

    While all ransomwares are malwares, all malwares are not ransomwares. Ransomware is malware designed to lock or encrypt the files in a victim’s computer and demand a ransom in return for restoring the file access. On the other hand, there are malwares that do not ask for a ransom but simply destroy the victim’s files.

    Ignorance of what are ransomware attacks and what is the best protection against ransomware often causes such attacks. Attackers usually exploit phishing, software vulnerabilities and weak security practices. To prevent attacks, conduct a basic computer and network home security awareness training for your personnel.

    Dr. Joseph Popp, an evolutionary biologist by profession, is considered as the creator of ransomware. The ransomware he created in 1989 is known as “AIDS Trojan.” He distributed it via floppy disks to attendees of an international AIDS conference, demanding payment for the decryption of the files which had been encrypted by the ransomware he made.

    No, ransomware is not an antivirus. It is malicious software designed to take control of a victim’s computer, establish a connection between the attacker and then allow the attacker to execute actions they intend to. There are advanced antivirus programs that come with the capability of ransomware removal, though.