FBI warns of ‘high-impact’ ransomware attacks

The FBI on Wednesday warned U.S. businesses and organizations of the increasing threat posed by ransomware cyberattacks, following several high-profile attacks on government offices and other public entities.

The agency said the attacks, which involve encrypting a computer before demanding money in return for unlocking it, are “becoming more targeted, sophisticated, and costly.”

“Since early 2018, the incidence of broad, indiscriminate ransomware campaigns has sharply declined, but the losses from ransomware attacks have increased significantly,” the FBI wrote.

The agency has issued similar warnings of malicious actors trying to hack into websites seen as more “secure” and has warned of business email compromises, but this was the first in 2019 highlighting ransomware attacks.

Wednesday’s warning follows attacks on more than 20 Texas small towns and other entities, and attacks on multiple school districts in Louisiana that led Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) to declare a statewide emergency.

The city governments of Baltimore and Atlanta have also been hit by ransomware attacks over the past year, with both cities refusing to pay the attackers and instead paying millions to recover from disruptions.

The FBI acknowledged the full scope of the ransomware attacks, writing that “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.”