Congressional IT desk warns representatives of ransomware threats

Be careful what you click on, Congress.

The technology service desk at the House of Representatives has sent out an email warning your state representatives to be careful which links they follow from their email inboxes. According to the email, which was forwarded to TechCrunch today, there has been an uptick in the number of ransomware attacks on the House network and the congressional IT folks will start banning access to YahooMail.

"When a user clicks on the link in the attack e-mail," the technology service desk helpfully explains to the nation's less-than-savvy Congresspeople, "the malware encrypts all files on that computer, including shared files, making them unusable until a 'ransom' is paid. The recent attacks have focused on using .js files attached as zip files to e-mail that appear to come from known senders."

While it would be amusing to find out if any representatives or their staff were hapless enough to click on a suspicious email attachment, a spokesperson for the House Chief Administrative Officer wouldn't confirm to TechCrunch whether or not the attacks were successful. In addition to YahooMail, it appears a number of Google Apps were also blocked.

Congress isn't alone as a target for ransomware attacks, however. Earlier this year, hackers held the computer system hostage at a hospital in Los Angeles. The medical center was eventually forced to hand over 40 bitcoins (or about $17,000) to get its network back. Likewise, the aging computer systems at many schools make them a prime target for ransomware attacks.