Ransomware is a type of malware that either encrypts or steals digital data and demands a financial ransom from the victim in order to release or return them. While criminals have been linking theft and hostage-taking to ransoms for a long time, the frequency and severity of contemporary ransomware, the nature and motivation of the perpetrators who use these methods of attack, and the type of targets victimized by these attacks–from federal governments to city municipalities, and from private companies to private citizens–suggests that ransomware be afforded much greater scholarly attention by social scientists. Ransomware is not solely a computer science problem. It is a security problem that has international, political, intelligence, and diplomatic ramifications. This article provides a detailed description of ransomware tailored to the social sciences. Using seven ransomware case studies, the article breaks down the technology's technical barriers, making ransomware more accessible to public policy and national security debates and analysis.

Comparative Strategy
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs

Wilner, A. S, Jeffery, A. (Anna), Lalor, J. (Jacqueline), Matthews, K. (Kathleen), Robinson, K. (Krystene), Rosolska, A. (Alexandra), & Yorgoro, C. (Catherine). (2019). On the social science of ransomware: Technology, security, and society. Comparative Strategy, 38(4), 347–370. doi:10.1080/01495933.2019.1633187