Protected Voices: Ransomware

The FBI’s Protected Voices initiative provides cybersecurity recommendations to political campaigns on multiple topics, including ransomware, to help mitigate the risk of cyber influence operations targeting U.S. elections.

Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Jim, and I’m a special agent with the FBI. In this video, I want to help you recognize, understand, and protect yourself from ransomware attacks.

Ransomware is a type of cyberattack in which an adversary accesses your computer and encrypts your data, which can cripple your campaign. Once you realize you can no longer access your own files, the adversary demands a ransom payment in exchange for a decryption key. If you pay the ransom, the promised key may or may not be provided, and it may or may not work. If you pay the ransom once, it’s likely they’ll come back again, infect your systems with ransomware a second time, and ask for more money.

The key to ransomware defense is prevention. Here are some specific steps your campaign can take to keep your data safe.

Train all staff in cyber hygiene awareness. Many ransomware attacks start by convincing a user to take an action, such as clicking a link, typing a password into a fake website, or downloading a file. Watch our other Protected Voices videos for more cyber security hygiene tips. 

Use a least-privilege principle. Limit users’ access to only the parts of the computer network they actually need. If a staff member only needs to read certain files, give him or her read-only access, and don’t allow that user to edit the files. Before you give anyone administrator access to files, make very sure they need that powerful access. This least-privilege principle may help stop malware from spreading.

Back up data to a standalone source. Ransomware spreads through a network, so anything connected to that network when the infection hits—including network backups—is likely to be infected, too. Some ransomware strands can even lock down cloud-based backups. The one best defense to ransomware is a backup to a separate computer or hard drive that’s disconnected from the main network after a backup is done. It’s a good idea to periodically check your backup to ensure it’s not corrupted. And you should also practice restoring your data from your backup copy from time to time.

Keep your anti-virus programs up to date and patched. And don’t put off installation of system updates that require you to restart your computer.

Keep your software updated so you’re using the latest versions. 

What if you do get infected with ransomware?

Call your local FBI field office to report a problem. The FBI does not condone paying the ransom. If you pay the ransom, you’re encouraging the adversary to continue infecting other victims. And even if you pay, there’s no guarantee that you’ll regain access to your data.

Remember, your voice matters, so protect it.

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