If you're accused of using ransomware against a company or agency, it's important that you understand what exactly is being implied. Ransomware is malicious software, or malware, that locks or encrypts digital files. Those who use this kind of program use it to ask for a ransom for the important information.
Sometimes, this information is meant to be secret, and other times, it is simply needed to help patients or to access academic records. In any case, once the malware is in place, it begins encrypting files and locking them. It also locks the victim out of files that those files are linked to, so there's no chance of accessing backup files on the system or network.
The victim receives a computerized message advising them of the attack and how they can pay the ransom to get their data back. Usually, bitcoins are used as currency, since it is difficult to track.
How does this malware get into a system? It can come from webpages, emails and other sources. For example, if you're running a popular social media website and malware is uploaded to it, that malware could be spread among your users. There's a chance you could be implicated in the crime, which is why it's important to speak with your attorney if you're so much as asked about the malware being on your system.
The federal government can pursue charges against you if you've used ransomware, and the penalties can be severe. Your attorney can help you show that you had no part in creating or using the software, but it's vital that you protect your legal rights from the start of the case.
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Ransomware," accessed Jan. 20, 2017