California bill would make ransomware a felony

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Lawmakers in California have introduced a bill that would make it a felony to knowingly use ransomware, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) wrote the bill — SB 1137 — which has garnered wide support from other lawmakers and tech leaders. Supporters suggest criminalizing ransomware helps bring current statutes up to speed with modern computer crime, and it would encourage law enforcement agencies to investigate ransomware incidents more often, according to the report.

The bill proposes up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine for using ransomware. It has not faced any opposition yet, according to the report.

In the first three months of 2016, victims across the country paid a total of $209 million in ransomware payments, according to the FBI, but no arrests were made in connection to these cyberattacks, reports Los Angeles Times.

The bill focuses on penalizing ransomware at the state level, as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act enables prosecutors at the federal level to pursue ransomware cases. At the state level, prosecutors can focus on cases that violate extortion laws or threats to injure a person or property, but ransomware doesn't really fall into either of these camps, Don Hoffman, head of the Cyber Investigation Response Team of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, told Los Angeles Times. "With ransomware, the threat has already been carried out. The data has already been encrypted; it has already been compromised. It's more like data kidnapping."

The proposed legislation follows a string of ransomware attacks on hospitals and health systems. In February, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles was hit with a ransomware virus that forced its IT systems offline. The hospital paid the equivalent of roughly $17,000 to regain access to its computer systems.

In early June, one day after the California Senate approved Sen. Hertzberg's bill, the senator's website was infected with a ransomware virus, reports TechWire.

More articles on ransomware:

4 reasons for ransomware's rise 
Android ransomware attacks increase four-fold in past year 
Why Crysis is healthcare's most threatening ransomware yet 

 

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