U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked FBI Director James Comey how the FBI is tackling the increasing problem of “ransomware” attacks in a letter. Ransomware attacks refer to the growing criminal practice of hacking Americans’ devices, encrypting personal information and holding it for ransom through ransomware software commonly known as Cryptolocker and Cryptowall.
“With this problem becoming increasingly widespread, the FBI should explore all legal options for stopping the successful use of ransomware. Not only should these efforts focus on cyber criminals conducting encryption attacks, they should also target the ransom payments from victims to cyber criminals,” Wyden wrote. “As we continue to live in a global economy driven by Internet communications, the need to stop bad actors becomes more important every day.”
Wyden asked Director Comey what is the FBI’s current approach to ransomware attacks, success rate in identifying suspects, ability to trace payments, what resources are available to victims and what additional tools the FBI may require to track payments and combat ransomware attacks. Wyden also asked if reports that FBI officials had told victims “just to pay the ransom” were an accurate portrayal of the FBI’s advice.
Victims report ransomware payments between $200 and $10,000. One type of ransomware, Cryptowall, has led to nearly 1,000 complaints and cost Americans over $18 million in 14 months.
The text of the letter can be found here.