US, Canada issue joint ransomware alert after string of hospital attacks

A joint alert from the United States and Canadian governments warns of the growing threat of ransomware attacks and outlines measures to take to prevent computer networks from being locked.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre released the alert Thursday.

The alert names several prominent ransomware variants that have emerged over the past few years, including Xorist, CtyptorBit, CryptoLocker, Samas and Locky.

The Locky ransomware variant is reportedly responsible for the ransomware attacks at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles and Methodist Hospital in Henderson, Ky.

Ransomware attacks can be so effective because they create a sense of fear and panic in end users, according to the alert. This fear can drive users to click on a malicious link or pay the ransom.

The governments recommend users do not pay the ransom if they are hit with a ransomware attack, saying providing payment does not guarantee the files will be released.

"Paying the ransom does not guarantee the encrypted files will be released; it only guarantees that the malicious actors receive the victim's money, and in some cases, their banking information. In addition, decrypting files does not mean the malware infection itself has been removed," according to the alert.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article listed Symantec as a type of ransomware. It actually is a cybersecurity company.

More articles on ransomware:

Federal agencies report 321 ransomware-related incidents since July
FBI warns against virulent strain of ransomware

Petya ransomware ups encryption game

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