Skater is looking at his smartphone.


Ransomware is a type of malware. Once installed on your computer or smartphone, this malware encrypts your data and blocks access to your device – with the aim of extorting a ransom to restore it.
Like viruses, worms and Trojans, ransomware also frequently reaches end devices such as computers or smartphones through phishing emails, unsafe websites or security vulnerabilities in networks. The tricky thing about ransomware is that it makes your own data inaccessible – be it personal, financial or business data. Private households in particular are increasingly being affected by such cyber attacks. Unlike companies, private individuals usually have less sophisticated security systems and do not have an IT security team. In addition, data such as personal photos or bank information have a high emotional or financial value for you, which is why ransom demands are often effective.

How can I protect myself against ransomware?

Whether reading the newspaper, chatting or working – being online should be a carefree and safe experience. It is important to know the risks and protect yourself. At the same time, users should not allow themselves to be controlled and restricted by fear. There are now many effective ways to protect yourself against malware such as ransomware.

  • Regular backups: Create regular backups of your data on an external drive or in a cloud outside the main network. This means you always have a backup of your data and are therefore not vulnerable to blackmail. You should also check from time to time whether your backups are working by restoring files from the backup.
  • Security software and updates: Regularly updating your software is particularly important, as the updates also cover newly discovered security vulnerabilities. If possible, activate automatic updates for your operating system. Security software such as antivirus or anti-malware software is also recommended. These programs can detect and block ransomware. You can also scan your device for security risks at any time to ensure that you are continuously protected.
  • Correct handling of emails and websites: Only open attachments or links if you know the sender and they are trustworthy. When in doubt, use a separate communication channel to find out whether the message in question is really from this sender. The same applies to downloads from websites. Where possible, avoid visiting completely unknown websites and expand your browser settings with pop-up blockers or warnings about unsafe websites.

Good to know: Cyber – Prevention from Zurich offers you optimal protection. The Zurich Cyber Security app offers various protection functions and features in one, and gives you access to IT specialists through IT assistance. This means you can call if you have any suspicions or questions and clarify your concerns directly with a specialist.

Ransomware: Respond correctly

If you notice unusual network activity, data is inexplicably encrypted or drives are no longer accessible, this could be a sign of ransomware. Suspicious emails or ransom demands are also possible signs.

How to respond correctly

  1. Isolate systems: Disconnect the affected device from the Internet immediately and switch off WiFi and Bluetooth to prevent any spread to other devices. External storage media such as USB sticks or hard drives must also be immediately removed.
  2. Seek expert advice: Contact an IT security expert or a cyber security company to discuss the next steps. Also notify the local police so that a search for the perpetrators can be started.  With Cyber-Prevention, IT assistance experts are at your disposal. 
  3. Do not act on your own initiative: Do not pay a ransom without consulting experts or the police. Even after payment, you have no guarantee that you will get your data and access back.
  4. Check backups: Make sure your backups are still there by accessing them through uninfected devices and a secure network connection. 

More articles

Phishing protection

Recognizing and responding to phishing

Learn how to detect phishing attacks and protect yourself. Get informed now.
Young girl listens to music through headphones and holds an icetea.

Safety on the Internet

Find out what risks you need to be aware of and how you can best protect yourself.
identity theft

Protection against identity theft

Learn how to further protect your data from misuse.
Password security

Password security

Choose secure passwords or generate them using a password manager, that's how it works.
A woman is working with a laptop on the terrace

Security in the home office

What to consider when working outside the office.
Mother sits with her daughter on the sofa and looks at a smartphone.


Find out how you can recognize malware and protect yourself against it.
Woman is on cell phone and holding credit card

New smartphone? This insurance makes sense for you.

Is it worth getting cellphone insurance for my new smartphone? We show you the options available. And which of them makes most sense for you.
Two couples are on the phone in a city

Data protection regulation

How personal data may be processed is regulated by the FADP, which applies in Switzerland, and the GDPR, which applies in EU countries. This serves to protect private individuals and, if need be, companies.
Package outside the front door

Stolen package - this is how you are protected

The long-awaited package has not show up – it has obviously been stolen. Now what?
Child with a tablet

Safe online surfing and shopping

Quickly check the weather, order socks online or stream a movie – the internet makes our lives easier. But private individuals can also be hacked, defrauded during online shopping or robbed via the internet. Seven questions and answers on the subject “safe surfing and online shopping”.