Ransomware is a computer software program that permits people to unlawfully access and control a computer, along with any data stored on the computer. The person will then refuse to turn over control of the computer and its data unless he or she is paid a certain amount of money. Sometimes these people will up the ransom if it is not paid by a certain time or the person may even permanently delete information on the hacked computer.
Ransomware attacks are a white collar crime in this state. Under Maryland law, if the victim of the attack loses under $10,000 the attack is a misdemeanor crime. However, if the victim of the attack loses more than $10,000, the attack is a felony crime.
However, a bill making its way through the Maryland Senate, cross-filed with a House bill, would change the penalties for ransomware crimes. Under these bills, if the victim of the attack loses more than $1,000, the attacker will be charged with a felony and could face a $100,000 fine and an incarceration period of 10 years. The impetus for the bill stems from a ransomware attack on a Salisbury Police Department earlier this year and an attack on the University of Maryland Medical System last year.
It remains to be seen if either of these bills will become law, and until then, the current law regarding ransomware attacks stands. However, it is important to note that the state of Maryland is taking white collar crimes such as ransomware attacks very seriously. White collar crimes may not physically harm victims, but they could impose a significant financial toll on victims. For this reason, some white collar crimes are considered felonies, and will be punished as such. When a person is charged with a white collar crime, they will want to make sure they understand how the law applies to the facts of their case, so they can make informed decisions regarding their defense.