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What is ransomware? Cyber crime terms explained

Friday’s global cyber attack hit 150 countries, bringing factories, hospitals and shops to a standstill.

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What is ransomware? Cyber crime terms explained

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Friday’s global cyber attack hit 150 countries, bringing factories, hospitals and shops to a standstill.

But it wasn’t just IT professionals left scratching their heads.

New terms, like ransomware, were launched into mainstream use, leaving the uninitiated confused.

Here we explain the need-to-know terms to sound like a cyber crime expert.


Ransomware: This is malicious software used to block access to a computer until the user agrees to pay a ransom. Experts say it is one of the fastest growing forms of computer virus.

Malware: A combination of malicious and software, this is the generic term for programs designed to infiltrate and damage computers.

Botnets: A network of internet-connected devices that are infected with malicious software, often without the user’s knowledge. Infected devices – often PCs but also servers or mobile phones – are controlled remotely by cyber criminals. The term is derived from the robot and network, the former a pointer to the automated nature of infection.

Virus: Code or a malicious program that infects other programs or files on your computer and is designed to spread from host to host.

Trojan Horse: A malicious program that is designed to look like a bona fide program. Once installed it can be used to alter information, steal passwords or destroy files.

Spyware: This is software that is created to collect information about a user’s computer use without the knowledge of the person being targeted.

Dark net: The normal internet is the open web, while information accessible through the open web but sitting behind a password-protected interface is the deep web. You need a special browser to access the dark net or dark web, which allows you to surf anonymously and is said to be a haven for criminals.

Money mules: Vulnerable individuals who are recruited, sometimes unwittingly, to transfer illegal funds between different bank accounts. They are sometimes used to transfer the proceeds of online fraud.