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Ransomware goes to Washington

The IT desk for the House of Representatives warns members of an uptick in attacks that encrypt data and hold it hostage.

Congress is no stranger to being held hostage, especially over budgetary impasses. But now our elected representatives have a new scourge to contend with: ransomware.

The tech service desk for the House of Representatives is warning members of an uptick in ransomware, according to an email described by TechCrunch. The hacks, which encrypt users' files and refuse to release an unscramble code until a ransom is paid, typically attack through third-party email apps such as YahooMail and Gmail, according to the report.

"The recent attacks have focused on using .js files attached as zip files to e-mail that appear to come from known senders," the email notes.

Because people report only a fraction of ransomware attacks to federal authorities, it's hard to say exactly how big the problem is. Ransomware captured headlines earlier this year when hackers struck a hospital in Hollywood and encrypted files critical to running the hospital's systems. After three weeks of operating without crucial computer programs, the hospital paid a $17,000 ransom to restore its systems.