Ransomware is possibly the most annoying type of virus out there today. Instead of stealing your information, slowing down your computer, or redirecting Google search results, ransomware takes your computer hostage.

How exactly does a virus take your computer hostage?

Well, the program locks down your system and prevents you from performing any functions. Instead of opening your favorite software, for example, you can’t even open your Start menu, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, or lock up a solution online.

The only thing you can do is interact with the ransomware program. Ransomware programs demand that you pay a fee in order to “clean your computer of a recent virus threat” or to “speed up your computer.”

In both of these cases, ransomware is evil. But in 2014 and beyond, it’s expected to become much more evil than ever before.

Ransomware will continue growing in popularity throughout 2014 according to recent security research. In the last four months of 2013, ransomware software gathered over $5 million in ill-gotten gains. A single haul might bring an attacker $100 or more, with some ransomware even charging a fee as high as $300 to unlock the infected PC.

ransomware evil

CryptoLocker: The most dangerous ransomware around

Over the past few months, the tech world has learned more and more about a deadly type of ransomware called CryptoLocker. CryptoLocker has been called the world’s most dangerous threat to PCs and the worst ransomware available today.

CryptoLocker first appeared online in September of 2013 and has exploded in popularity in recent months. After being infected with CryptoLocker, the ransomware does one of three things:

-Demands data in exchange for unlocking the computer

-Demands money in exchange for unlocking the computer

-Sells bandwidth online for botnets or DDoS attacks (some reports state that bandwidth sells for as much as $1/byte on online black markets

ransomware warnings

One of the worst parts about CryptoLocker and other programs is that if you do pay the fee, your system is probably still infected. The attacker may leave some files encrypted in order to squeeze every last dime from a user. After all, if you paid the money for the first ransom demand, then you’re more likely to pay the second, third, or fourth ransom demands as well.

How to remove CryptoLocker and other ransomware software

Removing CryptoLocker is easy, but recovering your encrypted files is now. To remove CryptoLocker, follow this simple video from MalwareBytes:

Unfortunately, after removing CryptoLocker from your system, whatever files that software encrypted are permanently locked. Your only option (aside from paying $300 USD for the unique key code for CryptoLocker) is to try to recover the files using Windows Restore or a file recovery program.

Yes, CryptoLocker is bad.

CryptoLocker might just be the tip of the ransomware iceberg. Already, another ransomware program called PowerLocker has been gaining popularity. With criminals making more money than ever before, it gives others an incentive to enter the field.

And with ransomware having an incredibly low barrier to entry, you can expect to see lots more of it in 2014 and beyond.

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