Ransomware can be devastating to anyone with essential documents on a computer or phone who has not backed them up to a separate location.

Hackers and phishers have created programs that act in the background of a person's device, encrypting the data and then locking it until the victim pays up.

Now computer scientists at Concordia University are working on software to stop ransomware in its tracks.

"What really bothered me was as soon as you get infected now, what happens is you lose everything. From the start of time to that point of infection, whatever data you have saved in your system everything is lost," said associate professor Mohammad Mannan.

Along with his student Lianying Zhao, he has been developing software named Inuksuk that locks down a person's data, preventing ransomware from getting access.

"If they want to write something, if they want to delete something, that part we control," said Mannan.

Zhao said Inuksuk protects a hard drive "that's actually preserving user experience. We're providing this data vault or safe."

Mannan and Zhao are looking to getting Inuksuk patented, but it's a long process.

"It's difficult for us to commercialize it. Students don't have the time. I don't have the time, but we are very much eager to work with a company who might be interested in making it into a real product that can be used now," said Mannan.

With files from Julian McKenzie