The Michigan House today voted to advance a bill proposed by state Rep. Brandt Iden, of Oshtemo, prohibiting the possession of computer ransomware with intent to use.
Ransomware is malicious software designed to block access to a computer or freeze essential files until a “ransom” payment is made to restore access. It is a growing problem in Michigan and around the country, with more than 1,300 incidents reported throughout the state this year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The costs of those incidents, which include payments as well as upgrades to data security systems, has been estimated at around $2.6 million for the state.
“Putting in these types of protections for individuals who do business in our state puts Michigan at an advantage for businesses,, said Iden. “A growing digital atmosphere continues to bring new threats to both the private and public sector and Michigan must be on the forefront of providing cyber security.”
According to the Michigan State Police, there is currently no state law that makes it a crime for a person to possess this type of software despite its nefarious purpose. Increased global investments and larger digital infrastructures have led to the prevalent nature of ransomware programs. Because of these factors, a wider array of information can be withheld if an attack is executed and restoration can be viewed as more valuable.
Iden’s legislation is House Bill 5257. The House also passed companion legislation proposed by state Rep. Jim Lower of Cedar Lake outlining sentencing guidelines for the intent to use or distribute ransomware, making it up to a three-year felony. The bills move to the Senate for consideration.