New Bill Proposes Making Ransomware Payments Illegal

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A new bill introduced by three state senators would make it illegal for municipalities in New York State to pay Bitcoin ransoms if their systems are compromised by hackers. It also proposes a fund to help those who are attacked recover quickly, with the incentive being to remove the temptation for hackers who know that the ransom will never be paid.

New York State Takes Action

The bill was brought by Senators Phil Boyle, George M. Borrello, and Sue Serino earlier this month, following several high-profile attacks on municipalities up and down the country in recent years, including New York State, where New York College was hit by a $1.9m ransom demand last year.

2019 also saw attacks in Florida, Georgia and more, with hundreds of BTC sought in ransom payments to unlock files that, eventually, were made impenetrable by the hackers anyway.

Cyber Security Enhancement Fund

The bill also proposes creating a Cyber Security Enhancement Fund to help boost the protection available to smaller communities who don’t currently have the budget to prevent cyber attacks:

A small investment in local government cybersecurity now, can help stop cybercriminals from profiting on the backs of New York State taxpayers and protect important state and local government services from disruption.

To incentivize these upgrades, the bill will prevent state and local governments from paying ransoms for ransomware attacks after January 1, 2022 by which time they should be able to sufficiently upgrade their cybersecurity systems.

The fund will not just go towards protecting communities but also offering them means of recovering from one “quickly and completely”, according to Adam Laub, CMO at STEALTHbits Technologies.

Public Bodies at Particular Risk

Public bodies in the unfortunate situation of offering critical services for millions of people yet being notoriously slow to upgrade their computer systems, often due to cost. However, with hacks occurring on an increasing scale it is clear that some action needs to be taken to avoid the risk of much higher costs down the road.