Bill Boosts Computer Security by Outlawing Ransomware

SB 1137 makes introducing ransomware into any computer, system or network a crime equivalent to extortion

February 18, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, introduced legislation today to help protect computer users by outlawing the practice of infecting computers with ransomware and making it the criminal equivalent of extortion. 

Ransomware is software that allows a computer hacker to access your computer, hold it hostage and demand payment in exchange for relinquishing the attack. Under the bill, a person engaged in the activity could be convicted of a felony and be given a sentence of up to four years in prison. 

“Nearly every day we read in the news about data breaches and online criminal activity,” Hertzberg said. “We must be clear that we will not tolerate this kind of conduct, and that using modern tactics to engage in age-old thuggery of ransom and extortion do not change the seriousness of the crime.”

Ransomware can often go beyond the simple extortion of money. It can allow hackers to steal passwords and gain access to bank accounts or other private or sensitive information, and it can lead to identity theft and the exorbitant costs and damages involved.

Even if ransom is paid, attackers rarely unlock the victim’s computer. For those who don’t fall for the scam but instead try to regain control of their computer, it often requires the costly assistance of a professional computer technician.

Ransomware is just one type of electronic criminal activity that has risen along with widespread use of computers, cell phones and the Internet. According to a recent report, 43 percent of companies in 2014 experienced some sort of data breach, including highly visible and damaging attacks that hit Sony, Home Depot, Target and JP Morgan Chase. 

The legislation is sponsored by TechNet, a bipartisan trade organization that advocates for technology companies. 

“Ransomware is the latest and most insidious tactic of hackers,” said Andrea Deveau, California Executive Director of TechNet. “Simply put, hackers are holding the networks of major institutions and business hostage until they receive a financial payoff. This practice has to be stopped immediately, or we will see ransomware proliferate, putting major institutions and businesses at extreme risk. TechNet is proud to sponsor this initiative and thanks Senator Hertzberg for his leadership." 


Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at  After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at

Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-4018