Skip to main content

Computer Ransomware – What Is It?

Ransomware is a type of malware used to infect computers, mobile devices, and networks. It encrypts or restricts access to data until a sum of money is paid.

Malware is designed to remain undetected. This allows cybercriminals time to access personal data on the device or network.

Ransomware attacks impact critical industries and infrastructure that affect our daily lives and our personal devices.

How Do I Get Ransomware?

Ransomware is downloaded when someone opens an infected attachment or link. The attachment or link redirects the victim to a malicious webpage that downloads a virus. This happens when clicking on:

  • Phishing emails that contain phony links or attachments.
  • Web pop-ups that claim to be “confirming” system credentials.
  • Unsolicited texts directing the user to click a link.
  • Malvertising ads on social media sites.

Once downloaded and opened, malware takes over the device or network.

Should You Pay The Ransom?

Paying the ransom is not recommended. It does not guarantee your data will be decrypted or the network will become accessible. It only creates an incentive for criminals to keep spreading malware.

Criminals are in the business for financial gain. If they know you are willing to pay, they will ask for more money.

Prevent Ransomware

Plan ahead and protect your devices and networks.

  • Update software often. Patches for flaws are included in each update.
  • Install ransomware protection software from a trusted source.
  • Don't respond to unsolicited emails or text messages.
  • Never click on links or attachments in unsolicited emails or text messages.
  • Only download applications from trusted sources.
  • Use only secure networks. Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Install a VPN (virtual private network) that provides you with a secure connection to the internet wherever you are.
  • Back up your data onto an external hard drive or cloud regularly.
  • Never use USB drives from unknown sources.
  • Stay informed.

Keep current on the latest ransomware threats. More information can be found at Stop Ransomware, the official U.S. government resource to help fight ransomware.

Report The Ransomware Attack

Report ransomware attacks to local law enforcement. Report them also to:

Your connection to consumer protection is just a click or phone call away. The Department provides a library of resources for consumers to review online on a variety of topics.

Consumers may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Team at:


Consumer Protection Team
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Fax: 517-241-3771
Toll-free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form