Protect Independent Journalism Make a year-end donation to ProPublica.
Skip to content

How Ransomware Is Fueling an Economy of Extortion

Join us for a conversation to decrypt the world of ransomware, cybersecurity and seven-figure negotiations.

In recent weeks, Colonial Pipeline, owners of the largest petroleum pipeline in the country, and JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, paid more than $15 million in total ransom after hackers paralyzed critical infrastructure and food supply chains. By paying the ransom, these companies went against the FBI’s wishes, but, as a recent ProPublica story illustrates, the burden of cybersecurity against ransomware often falls on private researchers and firms — not the government.

This event will provide an overview of what ProPublica calls “the extortion economy,” encompassing the ransomware attackers; the companies, institutions and government offices that they victimize; and the insurers, regulators, “data recovery” firms and law enforcement agencies that often get involved. It will address such questions as: How did ransomware attacks evolve from “spray and pray” tactics targeting a wide swath of individuals into a highly sophisticated operation targeting individual U.S. companies, critical infrastructure and sensitive user data vital to hospitals and cities? Who are the key actors and what enables the lucrative industry? What can be done to disrupt the extortion economy?

As ransomware disables companies, schools, hospitals and public agencies across the world, ProPublica reporters Renee Dudley and Jeff Kao, along with cybersecurity consultant John Reed Stark, will shed light on these issues in a conversation moderated by Pulitzer-winning editor Daniel Golden. They will also answer your questions.

This event has ended.