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Hackers are giving police departments a hard time with ransomware

Hackers are finding it easier than ever to compromise police departments’ systems and hold them hostage until the cops pay the hackers’ ransom fee, reports ABC News. In the meantime, the hackers have access to all the department’s files.

“Ransomware” is a term used when hackers gain entry into someone’s computer, encrypt documents found on the computer, and demand payment before a certain deadline. If the victims pay the hackers before the deadline expires, the victims are usually given a decryption key. Of course, even if you get the decryption key, your system could still be compromised.

Related: Florida teen charged with hacking felony for changing computer wallpaper

However, some forms of ransomware simply restrict interaction with your computer until you shell out money to regain full interaction. No matter what the form of ransomware, though, the main goal is to extort money from victims. Ransomware is usually spread if the victim clicks on a suspicious link or downloads materials made to look like something legitimate.

According to ABC News, several Maine police agencies reported being hit by ransomware, while a police department in Tewksbury, Massachusetts had to pay $500 in order to get back its data. Unfortunately, Intel Security online safety expert Robert Siciliano said hackers have successfully carved out a niche targeting law enforcement, with no end in sight.

“It’s a multi-million dollar business,” said Siciliano. “They’re getting paid and they’re getting paid well.”

One way to deter ransomware is to simply not click on such suspicious links, but backing up your data in multiple locations will also go a long way. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to masquerade your message as a work email, so it’s always a good idea to be on guard.