Just a few years ago, ransomware sounded like something out of a late ’90s hacker movie. Someone uses malicious software to lock you out of your computer then demands you pay a ransom. Unfortunately, it’s a reality in today’s business world!

Let’s take a look at how a ransomware attack works, the real cost of ransomware, and what you can do to prevent it.

How does a ransomware attack work?

If you’re lucky, you’ve never been a victim of ransomware, and may be wondering what it is. Ransomware is a type of virus but with a specific goal.

Ransomware is software designed to lock you out of your computer or some of your files until you pay a specific amount of money. In other words, pay a fee to unlock your computer or files, or else you’ll lose the data permanently.

The real cost of ransomware

Some individuals and organizations elect to pay the fee. Unfortunately, the financial investment of payment is just the beginning of the cost of ransomware.

First, many ransomware attacks demand payment in bitcoin. Most organizations will need to invest time and resources in setting up a bitcoin wallet before they pay the attackers.

Next, actually recovering from the attack can cost many times more than the actual ransom. There’s a financial cost to downtime. Obviously the person who uses the computer can’t work while the ransomware is active, but it also costs security and IT resources.

And if you do pay the ransom, you still have a major security issue. Paying means the software is still active on your computer and will likely even spread to other computers on the network.

The better solution is to have an IT professional remove the ransomware completely. Of course, the best solution is to prevent it in the first place.

How to prevent ransomware

Many common IT security measures will help prevent ransomware. Any competent IT professional will do things like install a firewall, ensure backups are running regularly, and make sure antivirus solutions are installed and updated across the network.

If ransomware is a concern for you—and it should be—the best way to prevent it is to work with an IT professional to protect your systems properly.