Security experts, FBI warn of increase in ransomware hacks

BOSTON — A new warning from the FBI outlines a surge in online attacks called ransomware.

Hackers gain access to electronic devices through malicious installs, then take control and essentially hold them hostage until you pay a ransom.

“The whole premise behind it is that, it locks your system down. It locks your critical files, your folders, anything you normally have access to, pictures, it completely makes them inaccessible behind encryption,” Yolanda Smith, product director for Boston-based Pwnie Express, said.

According to Smith, hospitals, universities, and growing businesses have become prime targets.

The FBI said it is hearing from more and more Massachusetts residents and companies about their computers and networks being targeted.

But, the FBI says, it’s important for people to avoid paying.

“It will never go away. It will be back to hit you. It will be back to hit our neighbors and your family,” FBI Director James Comey said.

At Pwnie Express, Smith said one of the most important things that can be done is to back up your data to the cloud or a hard drive.

“Even if your personal pc or your personal phone or tablet is completely locked down by ransonware, you can go and restore it, and have access to all your files completely,” she said.