Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that prevents you from accessing your computer files, systems, or networks and demands you pay a ransom for their return. Ransomware attacks can cause costly disruptions to operations and the loss of critical information and data.
You can unknowingly download ransomware onto a computer by opening an email attachment, clicking an ad, following a link, or even visiting a website that's embedded with malware.
Once the code is loaded on a computer, it will lock access to the computer itself or data and files stored there. More menacing versions can encrypt files and folders on local drives, attached drives, and even networked computers.
Most of the time, you don’t know your computer has been infected. You usually discover it when you can no longer access your data or you see computer messages letting you know about the attack and demanding ransom payments.
Tips for Avoiding Ransomware
The best way to avoid being exposed to ransomware—or any type of malware—is to be a cautious and conscientious computer user. Malware distributors have gotten increasingly savvy, and you need to be careful about what you download and click on.
- Keep operating systems, software, and applications current and up to date.
- Make sure anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and run regular scans.
- Back up data regularly and double-check that those backups were completed.
- Secure your backups. Make sure they are not connected to the computers and networks they are backing up.
- Create a continuity plan in case your business or organization is the victim of a ransomware attack.
How to Respond and Report
The FBI does not support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee you or your organization will get any data back. It also encourages perpetrators to target more victims and offers an incentive for others to get involved in this type of illegal activity.
If you are a victim of ransomware:
- Contact your local FBI field office to request assistance, or submit a tip online.
- File a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Information from IC3
02.04.2021 Ransomware: What It Is & What To Do About It (pdf)
This fact sheet provides the public with important information on the current ransomware threat and the government’s response, as well as common infection vectors, tools for attack prevention, and important contacts in the event of a ransomware attack.
10.02.2019 High Impact Ransomware Attacks Threaten U.S. Businesses and Organizations
Although state and local governments have been particularly visible targets for ransomware attacks, ransomware actors have also targeted health care organizations, industrial companies, and the transportation sector.
Related FBI News and Multimedia
Russian and Canadian National Charged for Participation in Lockbit Global Ransomware Campaign
A Russian and Canadian national has been charged with participating in the LockBit global ransomware campaign.
Canadian National Sentenced in Connection with Ransomware Attacks Resulting in the Payment of Tens of Millions of Dollars in Ransoms
Sebastian Vachon-Desjardins of Canada has been sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $21,500,000 for his role in NetWalker ransomware attacks.
FBI Philadelphia Urges Cybersecurity Awareness
The FBI is engaged in a cybersecurity awareness campaign to warn government and private sector organizations in our region about continued cyber threats.
FBI Honolulu Launches Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign
The FBI Honolulu Field Office has launched a cybersecurity awareness campaign to educate private sector businesses and organizations about the growing threat of cyberattacks.
Justice Department Seizes and Forfeits Approximately $500,000 From North Korean Ransomware Actors and Their Conspirators
The Justice Department announced a complaint filed in the District of Kansas to forfeit cryptocurrency paid as ransom to North Korean hackers.
FBI Tampa Asking Businesses to Bolster Defenses Against Ransomware
The FBI Tampa Cyber Crime Task Force is reminding public and private sector businesses to take the necessary steps to minimize ransomware risks.
Former Canadian Government Employee Extradited to the United States to Face Charges for Dozens of Ransomware Attacks Resulting in the Payment of Tens of Millions of Dollars in Ransoms
Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins was extradited from Canada to the U.S. on an indictment that charges him with conspiracy to commit computer fraud in connection with his alleged participation in a sophisticated form of ransomware known as NetWalker.
Sodinokibi/REvil Ransomware Defendant Extradited to United States and Arraigned in Texas
Yaroslav Vasinskyi, a Ukrainian national, made his initial appearance and was arraigned on charges of conducting ransomware attacks against multiple victims.
FBI Memphis Field Office Reminds Tennesseans About the Risk of Ransomware
The FBI Memphis Field Office is seeing a significant increase in the number of ransomware attacks, which is a type of malicious software or malware.
FBI Seattle Warns About Ransomware
LT Chu, a senior supervisory intelligence analyst for the FBI’s Seattle Field Office, discusses ransomware, malicious software that blocks access to a computer system or files until a “ransom” or monetary amount is paid.