What is a Cryptovirus?

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Short definition: A file-encrypting virus.

Extended definition:

A cryptovirus is the type of malware that often belongs to the ransomware kind and is a computer virus that aims to use encryption in order to render your files in or no longer openable state. Different crypto viruses use different encryption algorithms, which are basically the cipher “language” used to lock your files. The way the encryption works is that the victim files have blocks or segments of the core data in them changed with the data used from the cipher. Then, this virus often generates a unique decryption key, that is used to reverse this process and unlock the files, just fixing them. Cybercriminals, often use those types of viruses in order to extort victims into paying huge ransom “fees”, predominantly in BitCoin.

Cryptoviruses often use malicious files that are dropped on the victimised computer and programmed to scan for files to encrypt. The files that are most often attacked or from the following kinds:

  • Archives (.zip, .rar, etc).
  • Document file kinds (.docx, .pptx, etc.).
  • Audio file formats (.mp3, .wav, etc.).
  • Pictures (.jpg, .png, .etc).
  • Video file types (.mp4, .avi, etc.).
  • Other types of often used data.

These viruses are smartly programmed to skip encrypting files in the system directories of the operating system they attack. This is done with the main idea so that the victim can still use their computer effectively to pay a ransom anonymously, which often is hundreds of dollars.

For more definitions, check our Cyber Dictionary.

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