The United States and Canada jointly issued an alert, warning against a recent surge in extortion attacks that infect computers with viruses known as ransomware. The virus encrypts data and demands payments for unlocking it.

The US and Canada Governments in a joint statement said, “Infections can be devastating to an individual or organization, and recovery can be a difficult process that may require the services of a reputable data recovery specialist.”

Numerous private security firms’ reports have prompted the warning. The security firms are expecting that the  condition will deteriorate as hackers are getting more sophisticated while few businesses have adopted proper security measures to fight such cyber crimes.

The warning comes in the wake of reports of a trail of ransomware attacks on individuals businesses and government agencies which also includes some US hospitals and police department, reported The Telegraph.

 The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) stated in its site, “ransomware is a type of malware that infects computer systems, restricting users’ access to the infected systems.

It further stated, “Users are told that unless a ransom is paid, access will not be restored. The ransom demanded from individuals varies greatly but is frequently $200–$400 dollars and must be paid in virtual currency, such as Bitcoin.”

Ransomware is a computer virus which is devastating computer systems for more than a decade but grabbed media attention recently. That is mostly because of its new trend of attacking hospitals.

The virus locks your computer, preventing you from accessing your data until you pay a ransom. Hospitals are the perfect target as they rely on up-to-date information from patient records, as reported by WIRED.

Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of the security firm KnowBe4 said, “If you have patients, you are going to panic way quicker than if you are selling sheet metal.

Sjouwerman also noted that they “have not trained their employees on security awareness … and hospitals don’t focus on cybersecurity in general.”

FBI has released a flash alert on a strain of ransomware called MSIL/Samas.

A Royal Melbourne Hospital’s computer system was corrupted by some virus, recently,  creating turmoil for the patients.