Ransomware is a type of cybercrime that is very much a psychological challenge. Psychology is involved in each and every aspect of ransomware attack, from the moment of infection and to the moment when people pay the ransom.
As far as distribution is concerned, hackers often use SPAM to spread ransomware. Attackers use social engineering tricks to create a sense of fear, need or urgency and make the victim open a malicious attachment or click a link.
This tactic is aimed at people fellings and fear. Fake emails state that your account got compromised or unauthorized transaction made or that some benefits are going to changes. These messages impersonate reliable and authoritative organizations like Paypal, Amazon, even Police. Of cause these statements can scare victims, they want to quickly click and find out more about the problem.
Another side of human psychology that ransomware authors like to exploit is greediness or desire to easily and quickly get richer. Hackers create false discount offers and prizes.
Extorting money is only possible when people fear to lose their files. They value their files more than money. When your grandma wants to look through old family photos and finds that all of them are locked and inaccessible, her emotions are very strong. Those files represent her entire life, losing them is a big blow for her.
A very strong psychological pressure may come from the ransom notes. Hackers take a lot of efforts designing ransom notes. These may look very horrifying with contrasts fonts, backgrounds, and images. Sometimes cyber criminals falsely impersonate law enforcement agencies and accuse victims of serious crimes like child porn or virus distribution. Anybody can be scared to be put under an FBI microscope.
To keep this pressure, ransomware authors add deadlines and countdown timers for victims to make the payment. They may give you 24 hours and start deleting several precious files every minute.
Some ransomware attackers fool you to believe you are doing good things explaining that all money will be donated to charity and help sick or poor people. When they face a difficult decision, victims calm themselves thinking they help people.
To withstand the ransomware onslaught, we should psychologically prepare for it. People do not believe it can happen to them and thus when suddenly hit with ransomware, they feel completely helpless. You are not alone. There are a lot of ways to mitigate ransomware attacks and deal with encrypted files. Avoid clicking suspicious links and attachments. Make backups of your files and practice restoring them. Read and plan how you are going to act in case of a ransomware attack.