Ransomware is a malicious computer malware that disrupts the computer’s operation by infecting the user’s files by locking or encrypting the data and requires the victim to pay ransom to decrypt or unlock the computer. Ransomware removal, thus, becomes imperative to retrieve one’s data and reacquire access to the system.
Today, Ransomware has become such an immense threat that it has the potential to cause an impact on a global scale. Its targets are not just nations and organizations around the world, but also small businesses and private individuals.
An important question to consider is how did ransomware come into existence in the first place?
The first-ever documented Ransomware attack originated in 1989 in the healthcare industry, named as the AIDS Trojan. Developed by a Harvard trained biologist, Joseph L Popp, it occurred when around 20000 infected floppy disks were sent to the delegates of the AIDS Conference organized by the World Health Organization. However, the delegates were oblivious of the fact that these obnoxious floppy disks comprised of a malware program that initially remained dormant in the users’ system and did not have an immediate effect.
However, it was triggered after the computer systems were switched on about 90 times. Once this was achieved, the virus encrypted the files names on the customers’ operating systems and obscured their directories. The malware presented a dialogue box on the computer screens demanding a hefty amount of around $189 as a ransom for ransomware removal to decrypt the computer’s files and regain access. Although Dr. Popp was later caught, he was never tried for his ill actions due to his poor mental health.
Although, the first ransomware attack was primitive in nature, and the security companies were efficient to use their decryption tools for ransomware removal, however, it did have a lasting effect, setting in motion a series of ransomware attacks persisting till today. It paved the way for cybercriminals to discover the huge potential of monetization offered by ransomware.
Over the years, ransomware attacks have become much more complex and sophisticated. This evolution has led ingenious programmers to develop more powerful encryption tools.
Another conspicuous case of ransomware appeared almost a decade later in 1999 when the ‘Melissa’ virus was spread via email to thousands of users. The email comprised of an eminent subject, and a malicious Word attachment which had the potential to spread automatically in the user’s computers. This virus perturbed many organizations and individuals who had to bare massive losses, estimated around USD 80 million.
A similar case occurred in 2000 when a malware named ‘I LOVE YOU’ infected more than 45 million people, causing tremendous financial losses to the users. It actually worked by disguising the email as a love letter, and once opened, raided the whole system.
Following the years after 2000, ransomware has become a prevailing cyber threat out there for businesses, law enforcement agencies, security companies, and individual users. With the advancements in technology, major innovations, and increased digital dependency, the number of attacks has tremendously risen causing significant losses to the victims. Today, several new types of malware and new ways of delivery have evolved that continue to encrypt the users’ files.