The issue of Ransomware has become particularly relevant, raising concerns among companies, governmental institutions, and ordinary users. Attacks can lead to significant financial losses, leakage of confidential information, and even disruption of important social and production processes. Understanding the nature of the threat, its distribution methods, and ways to protect against it is extremely important for ensuring cybersecurity.

History of Ransomware 

The first known case of Ransomware occurred in 1989 and was named “AIDS Trojan.” Dr. Joseph Popp, an evolutionary biologist, was behind this attack. He distributed the malicious software via physical disks, mailing them to thousands of participants at an international AIDS conference.

Early Years (1989 – 2005) 

AIDS Trojan (1989): As mentioned earlier, the first known case of Ransomware was the AIDS Trojan. This Trojan operated by encrypting file names and demanding a ransom to restore access to the data.

The Era of “Police” Ransomware: In the early 2000s, variants of Ransomware appeared that masqueraded as messages from law enforcement agencies. They claimed that the user had committed illegal actions and had to pay a fine.

Explosion of Growth and Evolution (2006 – 2013) 

Gpcode, Cryzip, and Others: In the mid-2000s, more complex Ransomware variants emerged, using robust encryption to lock users’ files.

Development of Distribution: Attackers began to use social engineering and exploits to spread Ransomware, making it much more effective and dangerous.

Golden Age of Ransomware (2013 – 2017)

CryptoLocker and its Legacy: In 2013, CryptoLocker appeared, setting a new standard for Ransomware due to its effectiveness and ability to earn millions of dollars for its creators. This led to a surge in similar malware.

Emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS): Attackers began offering Ransomware as a service, allowing even inexperienced users to conduct attacks.

Increased Awareness and Response (2018 – Present) 

Intensifying the Fight Against Ransomware: Law enforcement agencies and cybersecurity firms have intensified their fight against Ransomware, developing new tools to prevent and neutralize attacks.

Increase in Targeted Attacks: Attackers have started targeting large organizations and municipal institutions, demanding huge ransoms.

Changing Strategies: In response to the intensified fight against Ransomware, attackers have started developing more sophisticated and complex attack methods.

III. Ransomware Techniques and Mechanisms

Ransomware utilizes various techniques and mechanisms to achieve its goals. Below are key aspects that help this malicious software successfully attack systems and extort money.

Data Encryption 

Strong Encryption: Most modern variants of ransomware use strong encryption algorithms, such as AES and RSA, to lock the victim’s files. This makes it almost impossible to recover the files without a special decryption key.

Selective Encryption: Attackers often choose to encrypt only specific file types, such as documents, photos, and databases, to maximize damage and increase the chances of receiving a ransom.

Distribution Methods 

Phishing: One of the most common ways to distribute ransomware is through phishing emails containing malicious attachments or links.

Exploits: Attackers use software vulnerabilities to penetrate systems and spread ransomware.

Malicious Websites: Visiting malicious websites can also lead to ransomware infection.

Ransom Demands 

Ransom Amount: The amount demanded by the attackers can vary from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the target and the victim’s ability to pay.

Payment Method: Attackers typically require payment in cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, to ensure anonymity.

Cryptocurrencies and Anonymity 

Use of Cryptocurrencies: Attackers prefer to use cryptocurrencies to receive ransoms, as it allows them to remain anonymous.

Tumblers and Mixers: They may also use cryptocurrency tumblers and mixers to further obscure transaction tracking.

The techniques and mechanisms used by ransomware make it one of the most serious and complex threats in cybersecurity. Effectively combating this threat requires a comprehensive approach, including prevention, detection, and response to incidents, as well as education and user awareness.

IV. Known Ransomware Families

There are many different families of ransomware, each with unique characteristics and methods of attack. Below are some of the most well-known and destructive examples.


Global Spread: In May 2017, WannaCry affected hundreds of thousands of computers in more than 150 countries, causing widespread disruption and damage amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Use of NSA Exploits: This ransomware variant used exploits developed by the United States National Security Agency, which were stolen and published by hackers.


Targeted Attacks: Unlike WannaCry, Ryuk targets specific organizations, often demanding huge ransom amounts. 

Advanced Tactics: Ryuk uses more advanced attack methods and manual spreading within the victim’s network, making it particularly dangerous and difficult to combat.


Widespread Distribution: Locky spread rapidly in 2016, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers and successfully extorting money from victims. Phishing 

Emails: This ransomware is often spread through phishing emails with malicious attachments disguised as invoices or other official documents.

Modern Threats 

Continuous Adaptation: Attackers continue to develop new ransomware variants, adapting to improvements in cybersecurity and seeking new ways to attack. 

Ransomware-as-a-Service: The emergence of the RaaS model allows even inexperienced criminals to conduct attacks, making the threat even more widespread and difficult to combat.

Known ransomware families demonstrate the variety of tactics and strategies used by attackers, underscoring the need for a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity. From educating users and regularly updating software to using advanced antivirus solutions and monitoring tools — all of these measures play a critical role in protecting against ransomware.


Ransomware continues to pose a serious threat to cybersecurity, employing sophisticated attack methods and distribution mechanisms. Effective protection requires a comprehensive approach, including user education, the use of modern antivirus solutions, and regular software updates. Analysis of known ransomware families highlights the scale and diversity of threats, making combating them a top priority in cybersecurity.