Malware, short for malicious software, refers to any software designed to steal sensitive data and damage or destroy computers and computer systems. There are many different types of malware that exist, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, and ransomware. Malware may be disguised as email links or attachments you were not expecting, or as legitimate websites, ads and free software. No matter the type, they all share the same objective — to capture and steal sensitive information and disrupt computer systems.  


Ransomware is a type of malware that’s on the rise, both for personal and business devices. Attackers will infect your device with malicious software that will encrypt (lock) your files and then demand ransom payment to unlock your data. One of the most common delivery methods is through phishing emails .  

Once installed on your computer, ransomware can remain dormant until the scammer activates it to encrypt your files. When files are encrypted, neither you nor an IT professional will be able to unlock your data. The only person that can grant you access is the scammer.  

Scammers will demand a ransom payment to decrypt and unlock the files, but there are no guarantees that they’ll unlock your files or that they won’t sell or leak the information online. 

Protect against ransomware  

It can be very difficult to decrypt your files and remove the ransomware from your computer.  

If you think your system has been infected with ransomware, consider trying the following: 

  • Back up your files regularly to a storage device not attached to your computer (example: external hard drive). 
  • Remove the infected devices from your network, which will prevent the ransomware from spreading. 
  • Check with your anti-virus provider. Some anti-virus providers can detect this malware and may have instructions and software to help; if you’re familiar with data recovery, you may try to remove the malware yourself.
  • Consult an IT security specialist. A professional may be able to help you reformat your device and restore your files if you have them backed up.  
  • Create long, unique passwords for all your accounts – especially your personal or financial accounts. This will stop fraudsters from accessing multiple accounts if one of your passwords is hacked.
  • Report the scam/ Alert your local police department and anti-fraud centre. If you are a Canadian citizen, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) at 1-888-495-8501 or visit the CAFC reporting page for more information. 

Have you been scammed?