News Item

Hackers Ramp Up Computer Attacks That Demand 'Ransom'

USA Today, By Donna Leinwand Leger

On a bitter cold Friday in January, an ominous warning popped up on a computer screen at the Chamber of Commerce in Bennington, Vt.

The warning — next to a ticking countdown clock — threatened to destroy all data on the computer if the chamber refused to pay a $400 ransom within 40 hours.

Local computer whiz Max Squires quickly identified the culprit: CryptoLocker, computer malware that freezes access to every file, including photos, documents and programs with a secret pass key known only to the hacker.

Solution: None.

Hackers operating on the Internet's "Dark Web" are spreading a new, more sophisticated generation of the malicious software known as "ransomware," anonymously shaking down anyone with an unprotected computer, from lawyers and cops to small businesses. Where small groups of anonymous hackers once hit individual consumers, the hackers have now organized into crime syndicates that boldly launch massive attacks against entire companies, computer experts and law enforcement authorities said. Read more.