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9/7/2016
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FBI Official Explains What To Do In A Ransomware Attack

Feds say even basic information can advance the agency's investigation.

Businesses or consumers hit by ransomware should refuse to pay the ransom and immediately contact the FBI or file a complaint on www.ic3.gov, the federal government’s website for filing and sharing information about cybercrime, an FBI official said today.

Will Bales, supervisory special agent for the FBI’s Cyber Division, said any information, whether it’s a Bitcoin wallet address, transaction data, the hashtag of the malware, or any email correspondence, can help advance an FBI ransomware investigation.

“People have to remember that ransomware does not affect just one person or one business,” Bales said. “It will more than likely move on and affect somebody else. And for those who pay the ransom, it only encourages them to extort the next person.”

Bales was part of a panel discussion on ransomware today at the kickoff of the Federal Trade Commission’s Fall Technology Series held at the Constitution Center in Washington, DC.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez started the afternoon conference by underscoring how the threat of ransomware has increased in the past year.

Ramirez cited Justice Department data that said there have been 4,000 ransomware attacks daily since January 1, 2016 alone – a quadrupling of such attacks in just a year. In addition, PhishMe research found that 93% of phishing emails now contain some variant of ransomware.

“Ransomware attackers can access extremely sensitive personal information such as medical data, financial account numbers, and the contents of private communications, some of which may be sold on the dark web,” Ramirez said. “We are eager to expand our understanding of this growing threat … and for nearly a decade we’ve worked with other agencies and have provided guidance to consumers and businesses on how to best protect their computers and networks.”

The FTC Chairwoman also said the agency will be active in pressing cases against the attackers, pointing out that the agency has made at least 60 enforcement actions around companies not protecting consumer data. She said not protecting against ransomware may violate federal law.

The FBI’s Bales said the government has been making progress on prosecuting ransomware cases, but would give no real specifics other than to say they have been successful in working with other law enforcement agencies around the world in taking down the infrastructure of some of the ransomware criminals.

Bales indicated that there would be more news of success stories in the upcoming months.

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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