updated 12/11/2012 9:18:44 AM ET 2012-12-11T14:18:44

Nine times out of 10, cybercrime victims should not give in to cybercriminals' ransom demands. But what if restoring access to the encrypted information is a matter of life and death? After blackmailers encrypted an Australian medical facility's entire patient database, authorities there are faced with just such a choice.

"We're trying to work out how to pay the hackers or find someone to decrypt the information," the facility's owner, David Wood, told Australia's ABC News. "We've got all the antivirus stuff in place — there's no sign of a virus. They literally got in, hijacked the server and then ran their encryption software."

The hackers said they would unencrypt the data only if the facility coughed up $4,200 — but should anyone take a criminal at his word? The answer is almost always an emphatic no.

Despite the facility's inability to access patient records, Wood said no data had been stolen and that the facility was still accepting patients in the face of this "very, very, very difficult" situation.

A similar attack on an American medical facility, possibly by the same hackers, occurred near the end of October. That extortion attempt was foiled, however, thanks to a copy of the database that was saved on a separate system.

The overwhelming majority of online ransom attacks are Trojan -based, ransomware attacks, and aimed at individuals' personal computers. This latest wave of attacks aimed at hospitals may signal a new trend of ransom campaigns aimed at businesses.

Ransomware, also called police Trojans, often purport to come from law enforcement. Remember, the police will never levy a fine over the Internet without due process, via giftcards or other financial products.

As a rule, don't give in to criminal hackers' demands. Just because you hold up your end of the bargain, doesn't mean they will — they're already making you pay for something that's yours. Instead, call the real police.

Follow Ben on Twitter@benkwx.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily


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