From NextGov:

A key Senate committee wants to know if any federal agencies have delivered hackers a ransom to remove file-freezing malware from government computers.

So-called ransomware viruses — innovations often devised by financial criminals — have become a common nuisance in the United States, costing each victim hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The malicious programs, with names like Cryptowall and CryptoDefense, render a computer user’s files and documents unreadable using encryption technology. Often the only way to reopen one’s files is to pay the crook, typically with untraceable virtual currency like Bitcoin. 

Usually, the attacks show up at small businesses or on an individual’s personal device, but there also have been incidents reported at local law enforcement agencies.

The leaders of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sent letters dated Dec. 3 to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security inquiring about the threat ransomware poses to the American public.

 “While much must be done to bolster the cyber defenses of our federal agencies, a far larger group, including individual consumers, faces a growing threat from a malicious computer virus known as ‘ransomware,’” Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Tom Carper, D-Del, said. “Recent news reports suggest ransomware attackers are also targeting public safety and law enforcement agencies.”

Among the lists of questions sent to DHS and Justice, three specifically asked about ransomware attacking federal agencies.  

Have federal, state, or local governments sought DOJ or FBI’s help to remove ransomware from their computers? If so, please describe the nature of any assistance sought, whether agencies…

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