Ransomware: Cyber criminals hold data hostage

Ransomware is a malware that takes over computers and demands money

A person uses a computer, file. (Wiki Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)
A person uses a computer, file. (Wiki Commons / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The FBI and U.S. Secret Service warned local businesses of a growing threat called ransomware.

According to the FBI, ransomware is a type of malicious software that cyber criminals use to hold data hostage.

After the initial attack, ransomware can try and spread to shared network drives and systems.

“If the demands are not met, the system or encrypted data remains unavailable or data remains unavailable, or data may be deleted,” according to the FBI.

On Friday, the FBI in Oregon and U.S. Secret Service held a meeting for local businesses to tell them about the threats.

“It’s affecting a lot of small and medium size businesses in Oregon,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent George Chamberlin said. “When [companies] receive ransomware it can have a serious impact on their business and their customers because they can’t access that critical data.”

The effects on businesses and people targeted with ransomware can be devastating.

“Some companies have lost access to their data,” Chamberlin said. “[Companies] are faced with a grim choice about paying a ransom.”

The FBI doesn’t advise victims to pay the ransom because it will potentially embolden the adversary, according to Chamberlin. But, he said the ultimate decision is up to each individual victim.

“There’s recognition that this is a threat to the business community and the community at large,” he said.

The FBI warns that even if a company or individual pays the ransom, there’s still no promise that the cyber actor will release the data.

The FBI has placed a lot of information on its website on how to spot, prevent and handle ransomware.

The Department of Justice and U.S. Secret Service offer additional tips in a 9-page digital resource.

To report cyber based crime, the Department of Justice has many available options.

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