Ransomware, a method of electronically attacking corporations and individuals by holding their data hostage, has gained massive popularity amongst hackers in the last several years. Ransomware is the first form of malware to present the threats of both the destruction of important data and the economic harm the loss of that data can create. Ransomware attacks will continue to increase in scope and severity in years to come, necessitating continuous vigilance.

In essence, ransomware acts by taking data that is of value to an entity but not deleting it. The ransomware acts as a figurative glass wall, allowing the owner of the data to physically possess that data but not access it. This is accomplished by implanting a virus on the owner’s hard drive, usually by means of an infected link in an email or other innocuous-looking document. Once the link is clicked, the ransomware works by encrypting the entire storage system. The hackers then threaten to destroy the data unless a ransom is paid.

2017 saw some of the worst ransomware attacks to date, escalating exponentially in size and gravity over previous years. According to a study by the Kaspersky Lab, over 479 million attacks occurred from online sources during the first quarter of 2017, up by over 250 percent from years past. These attacks ranged across countries and industries, and plagued corporations of all sizes.

To read the full text of this article by Duane Morris attorneys Anjali Kulkarni and Joseph M. Burton, please visit The Bar Association of San Francisco website.