FBI: Hospitals must take ransomware threat seriously

No one is safe from ransomware, it would seem. In recent months organizations from law enforcement agencies to schools and hospitals have fallen victim to these malicious computer viruses. Now the FBI is drawing attention to just how dangerous the software can be.

"Ransomware has been around for a few years, but during 2015, law enforcement saw an increase in these types of cyber attacks, particularly against organizations because the payoffs are higher," a blog post on FBI.gov reads. "And if the first three months of this year are any indication, the number of ransomware incidents — and the ensuing damage they cause — will grow even more in 2016 if individuals and organizations don't prepare for these attacks in advance."

The attacks are particularly damaging for hospitals because they encrypt crucial files and lock users out, which can affect patient care. What's more, the attacks are becoming more sophisticated. The new generation of ransomware often comes in spear phishing e-mails, which are targeted at specific individuals and look like regular messages, rather than spam.

The FBI doesn't recommend that hospitals pay ransoms associated with the viruses. Paying up doesn't guarantee files will be released and can embolden hackers and cybercriminals further, according to James Trainor, assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division.

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