Without getting too technical, ransomware works by infecting a computer, then using modern cryptography methods to encrypt files. Once encrypted, the files cannot be decrypted without the “key” that the hackers provide when you pay them ransom. Since we are talking about encryption schemes that would take supercomputers years to break, there is (with one increasingly limited exception) no way to regain access to the encrypted files without paying for the key.
We mentioned an increasingly limited exception. A couple of years ago, when one ransomware ring was taken down by law enforcement, some of the private keys that ring used to decrypt were recovered. Thus, if the ransomware variant that infected your machine happens to be the increasingly outdated version that matches these keys, then you have a shot at getting your files back without paying the ransom. But, the hackers are very aware of this loophole, and more modern ransomware variants do not respond to the captured keys.
How Ransomware is spread
The delivery methods keep evolving, but almost all delivery mechanisms have something in common: human help. Common delivery methods include such human-machine interactions as opening infected email attachments, and visiting websites which inject the malware into the user’s machine. While even the most innocent websites can be hijacked to deliver malware, the shadier websites are the most likely to give you an unwanted infection. MORE