A Yuba City medical clinic's computer system was attacked by overseas hackers with what federal agencies are calling a fast-growing cybercrime: Ransomware.

Ransomware is a digital attack designed to block access to portions of a computer system until the user pays a ransom. Since the beginning of 2016, more than 4,000 daily attacks have targeted home computer users, businesses and government networks, according to a special U.S. government interagency report.

Yuba-Sutter Medical Clinic was hit with such an attack on Aug. 3, according to a press release issued Sunday by attorney Robert Rymek.

He said the malware did not compromise patient information, rather it temporarily limited staff access to data.

"Picture coming home and finding someone's put a chain lock around your house," Rymek said. "It prevents you from getting in there. Its not that (the hackers) are accessing what's inside."

Although no digital information was lost, the attack impacted operations. The clinic was temporarily limited from obtaining access to certain data, which resulted in delays and the need to reschedule appointments, Rymek said.

The clinic was able to quickly regain access within a day or two, he said. He did not comment on whether the ransom was paid.

There was some indication the attackers were based in Russia or China, and the incident was reported to federal law enforcement authorities for investigation, he said.

"Its the hot security topic of 2016," Rymek said.

Some attacks result in an intimidating message, such as: "Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content. To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine."

Attackers sometimes gain access to computer networks by tricking a user to share a password or open an email attachment with a virus, a government report says. Then, attackers often request payment of the ransom with bitcoin, a form of digital currency.

The best defense is proactive training, as well as the use of spam filters, firewalls that block known malicious IP addresses, and the use of anti-virus and anti-malware programs that conduct regular scans.

CONTACT reporter Monica Vaughan at 749-4783 and on Twitter @MonicaLVaughan.

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