What Are Ransomware Attacks?

January 1, 2019 | By Shane Phelps Law
What Are Ransomware Attacks?

Although not new, ransomware attacks are becoming more prevalent in today’s digital age. These types of offenses occur when a person or group of people hack into a computer system and encrypt the data. The person who owns or uses the system is then unable to access it. The hacker tells the user that the only way to get their information back is to pay a ransom.

Because of the sophisticated technology hackers use to encrypt computer systems, often the only way to recover encrypted data is to comply with the ransom demand. In most ransomware cases, payment is demanded through cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. Hackers use this mode of payment because it affords a level of anonymity and it’s difficult to find where the payment went.

What Industries Are at Risk of Ransomware Attacks?

Ransomware attacks can be committed on any system with lax security, whether it’s a personal or business computer.

However, hackers typically target specific industries, such as:

  • Transportation
  • Financial services
  • Government
  • Real estate
  • Health care
  • Professional services

The reason hackers go after these sectors is because a ransomware attack can cause serious damage to the functionality of the systems. For instance, if a hospital can’t access patients’ information, they won’t know what procedures to implement or medications to give. That can put the person at risk of further health conditions or injuries.

Recently, ransomware attacks have been committed against 22 cities throughout Texas. Because of the hacking, some cities have been unable to process utility payments, use electronic ticket systems, or service online birth and death certificate requests. The hackers encrypted their data and demanded millions of dollars in payment to restore the systems.

Ransomware attacks aren’t just focused on Texas cities. Municipalities across the nation have been victims of the crime. Some have even paid substantial ransoms for decryption keys. One city in Florida delivered $460,000 in Bitcoin to return their system to working order.

What Are Some Effects of Paying the Demand?

Experts say that acquiescing to the hackers’ demands only serves to further perpetuate ransomware offenses. The attackers learn that they can make money from destroying someone else’s system and continue to do it. Additionally, paying a ransom helps fund future attacks, as hackers can invest in more sophisticated technologies and methods for their schemes.

Although paying the ransom can restore the system (in some cases, the attacker might take the money without providing the decryption key), it can reduce confidence in the data. The person or entity whose system was hacked may realize that their computer is not secure. Also, someone else had access to their information, which diminishes its integrity.

Are there State Laws Against Ransomware Attacks?

Because ransomware attacks can have debilitating effects on the operations of a company or municipality, they are considered illegal.

In Texas, a person accused of gaining unauthorized access to a computer system could be charged with various offenses, such as:

  • Theft
  • Breach of computer security
  • Unlawful decryption

For Skilled Defense, Contact Shane Phelps Law.

Ransomware attackers use various methods to remain anonymous when carrying out an offense. Some diversions may include running their program through multiple systems to make it challenging to track them. Because of this, you might be wrongfully accused of being involved in this type of conduct. If you’ve been charged with a computer crime, reach out to our lawyers today. We will fight hard to protect your rights and will work toward a favorable outcome on your behalf.

To get started with your case in Bryan and College Station, call us at (979) 775-4100 or contact us online today!