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Ransomware
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

The Internet is a powerful tool, but like any powerful tool, it can be dangerous if used carelessly. The latest threat to sweep across the online world is called ransomware. Ransomware is a combination of two words: ransom, which refers to money given to a kidnapper, and software, which refers to a computer program. Ransomware is a computer virus that locks a computer down, preventing anyone from being able to use it until the user pays money to the creator of the virus.

Like other computer viruses, ransomware spreads through email attachments and files downloaded from untrustworthy sites. But unlike most viruses, ransomware doesn’t ruin the files on a computer immediately. Instead, it shows users a countdown clock. This clock counts down the time until the computer’s files will be destroyed. Victims have from several hours to several days to send money to an online address shown on the screen. If they send the ransom money, their computer will be unlocked. If they don’t, all of their files will be erased.

Experts estimate that ransomware creators are earning millions of dollars every year from their viruses. Ransomware is such a big business that ransomware creators are even providing technical support to their victims to help them pay their ransom money. As this online threat spreads, it is important to be careful about the sites you visit and the files you download. Do not open email attachments from unrecognized sources, don’t visit untrustworthy websites, and make sure to use antivirus software.


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