Ransomware is certainly a big crime as per the cyber laws. However, the Californian government has decided to treat ransomware not just a cybercrime; but as Extortion, a serious crime against humans. California’s SB-1137, signed into law last Tuesday by Governor Jerry Brown, is the first one that specifically expands extortion laws to include ransomware. This is the first time when any government is treating ransomware as extortion.
Ransomware is extortion
California’s new bill specifically includes new definitions to treat ransomware as extortion. That means now the prosecutors will be able to seek a jail sentence for the cyber criminals involved in ransomware in any way, such as creating the ransomware or distributing it. The person found guilty of using ransomware can be jailed for anywhere from two to four years.
Here is some part of the bill:
(1) “Ransomware” means a computer contaminant, as defined in Section 502, or lock placed or introduced without authorization into a computer, computer system, or computer network that restricts access by an authorized person to the computer, computer system, computer network, or any data therein under circumstances in which the person responsible for the placement or introduction of the ransomware demands payment of money or other consideration to remove the computer contaminant, restore access to the computer, computer system, computer network, or data, or otherwise remediate the impact of the computer contaminant or lock.
(2) A person is responsible for placing or introducing ransomware into a computer, computer system, or computer network if the person directly places or introduces the ransomware or directs or induces another person to do so, with the intent of demanding payment or other consideration to remove the ransomware, restore access, or otherwise remediate the impact of the ransomware.
You can read the complete contents of the bill here.
Support for the bill
The bill was mainly supported in California by testimony from Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. In this hospital, many operations were shut down by a ransomware infection. Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center had to pay $17,000 in Bitcoin so that attackers would send the decryption code. Considering such testimonies, the Californian government concluded to treat ransomware as extortion and make it punishable like any other serious crime.
Ransomware is a serious and quite destructive threat to businesses and individuals today. However, unfortunately, it is possible to hide the tracks as a ransomware criminal. It is also very difficult to track the malware writers. As a result, very few cyber criminals have been arrested for ransomware attacks in the U.S. as well as across the world. This new bill of treating ransomware as extortion will certainly help track down such criminals and also punish them heavily.