When we think of hostage scenarios, most of us conjure up the image of a person being abducted. Then the abductors send the person’s loved ones a sketchy note or phone call requesting money with the threat of harming the abductee if they do not get it.
However, ransom crimes have entered the digital age. These days, it is possible for a person to use technology referred to as “ransomware” to commit a financial crime that is in some ways similar to traditional hostage scenarios.
Ransomware is a type of computer software. It is used to hold another person’s computer “hostage” by encrypting data. People might fall for a ransomware attack by opening an email attachment or accessing an unsecured website.
The ransomware then locks up the person’s computer. The computer cannot be unlocked until either the perpetrator of the scheme is paid a ransom or data is destroyed.
Ransomware attacks do not often involve cash transactions. They may instead request cryptocurrency payments or gift cards, believing it is a more anonymous way to receive payment.
Ransomware attacks can also utilize botnets, which are a network of computers created by the perpetrators of the attack. The people who own the devices on the network do not know they are on a network. This way, the perpetrators of the attack can infect all devices on the network at the same time.
Ransomware attacks are a criminal offence
Ransomware attacks are illegal. They essentially hold a person or company’s computer system hostage until they receive their ransom. While they can affect individuals, they can also affect businesses, banks, hospitals or even government agencies. This makes them a financial crime subject to federal prosecution.