The FBI is seeing more incidents of ransomware attacks this year, according to James Trainor, cyber division assistant director for the FBI, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Trainor, speaking at the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity at the University of California at Berkeley, said a wide range of organizations have been targeted this year, including hospitals, school districts, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, small companies and large businesses.
Trainor advised companies that become victims of a ransomware attack not to pay because it only encourages the hackers.
"The uptick and variance in ransomware in the first quarter of 2016…has been unbelievable," said Trainor, who also predicted that ransomware attacks on businesses will continue to be a significant threat over the next 12 months.
During the first quarter, several hospitals reported ransomware attacks. In February, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid the equivalent of $17,000 in bitcoins to a hacker to regain control of its computer systems. One of the most recent victims of a ransomware attack is the Lansing Board of Water & Light. The utility had to stop the spread of ransomware by shutting down its email and accounting systems, according to the International Business Times.
In addition to not paying, Trainor and other experts suggest that regularly backing up systems is the best defense and can allow companies to make a full recovery in case of an incident.
"Endpoint backup, with real time recovery capability, captures and protects all files created and stored on devices," said Rick Orloff, vice president and chief security officers at Code42. "This is the best solution ensuring that your company is not left paying a ransom in order to get its data back."