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Gerash Steiner, P.C. Featuring More Than 40 Years of Trial Experience

What Is a Ransomware Attack, and Is it Illegal?

People use email to communicate back and forth with one another. Sometimes the messages contain links to interesting articles or sites that a person can visit for more information about a subject.

Typically, the links are harmless, but some individuals will send malware that can do a great deal of damage to a person’s computer or network. The sender holds the receiver’s system for ransom, stating that the only way to get it working again is by sending payment. Doing this is called a ransomware attack, and it is a type of white-collar crime.

What Industries Are Targeted by Ransomware Attacks?

The people who carry out ransomware schemes don’t target one specific industry, and they look for systems with weak security measures in place. These attacks have targeted cities, schools, medical providers, and various others. Those sending malicious content could also direct their efforts toward individuals, but because they are seeking to obtain large sums of money, they look for businesses and agencies that might have the resources to meet their demands.

According to a report by Coveware, in 2019, the prevalence of ransomware attacks by industry was as follows:

  • Transportation: 2.3%
  • Public sector: 3.4%
  • Financial services: 3.4%
  • Food & staples: 4.5%
  • Materials: 6.8%
  • Real estate: 10.2%
  • Consumer services: 12.5%
  • Health care: 13.6%
  • Professional services: 18.2%
  • Software services: 20.5%

What Does Malware Do?

A person can carry out a ransomware attack in a number of different ways, but the most common is through phishing schemes. When someone goes “phishing,” they create an email that looks legitimate – typically disguising the sender as a person or company the recipient knows – and asks the sender to click on a link or attachment.

Once the ransomware receiver opens the link or attachment, a malware software is downloaded on the computer, which allows the hacker to gain access to the system.

Malware can harm a person’s system in several different ways. The most common is encrypting files so the user cannot access data. Such an attack can make it difficult for a business, school, or other institution to run. For instance, if a person sends malware to a medical provider, practitioners and staff might not be able to access patient data.

Depending on the type of software used for the attack, the sender of the malicious message could also obtain sensitive information. Regardless of the kind of industry targeted, this could cause harm to many others, as their bank account numbers, health records, Social Security numbers, passwords, and other personal data could be compromised.

How Is a System Freed from Malware?

The only way to decrypt the files is by using a unique “key” that only the sender knows. The receiver might get a message telling them that their system has been compromised, and to get it working again, they must send a payment using cryptocurrency – because these types of transactions allow for a level of anonymity. In some cases, the attacker might threaten to expose sensitive data found on the network to force the receiver to pay the ransom.

Unfortunately, in some situations, even if the person who received the malicious message makes the payment to unlock their system, there is no guarantee that the attacker will follow through. If the sender does remove the malware, they have already had access to the receiver’s information, which means it is compromised and they have to take extra measures to secure their system and data.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Gerash Steiner, P.C.

Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and because the people sending the malicious software demand payment through cryptocurrency, you could unknowingly be caught up in this type of scheme and could be falsely accused of committing the act. If you are facing criminal allegations, contact our attorneys as soon as possible. We will work tirelessly to build a solid defense on your behalf.

For representation from a firm dedicated to protecting your rights, call us at (303) 732-5048 or contact us online.