If you haven’t come across a type of virus named “ransomware,” consider yourself lucky. Ransomware is a new type of malware that encrypts your files and takes them hostage for a fee. This fee isn’t insignificant for most people either. The fee ranges from $300 to $1000.

US law officials recently arrested several people behind a type of hijacking software called Gameover. This software allowed hackers to take control of a computer and manipulate files. Gameover was used to upload ransomware named CryptoLocker. When Gameover went bust, it took CryptoLocker with it, but hackers have created new software to take over where CryptoLocker left off.

How Ransomware Spreads

The method of infection varies for most viruses, but ransomware is typically packaged with installation files masquerading as official software updates. They are advertised as updates for Adobe Acrobat, Java and Flash Player. If you’ve opened underground websites such as torrent sites, you’ve probably come across some of the ads used to distribute malware. Typically, a popup opens telling you that you need to update Adobe Acrobat.

How Ransomware Works

After infecting your computer, the malware finds files with JPG, XLS, PNG, DOC and PPT file extensions. These files are usually important images and documentation, so there is a good chance the hacker will encrypt a file that you need.

After encryption, the malware tells you that your data is being held for ransom and gives you a site to access. You typically need to access this software using a browser named Tor. You also need to buy bitcoins to pay the hacker. Reports have shown that many people pay the ransom, because the files are just too important to give up, and there is currently no guaranteed method to decrypt files.