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 (KTXL) – The FBI is warning residents after ransomware attacks have targeted both a local business and community college in the Sacramento area.

It’s been coined ransomware because the culprit responsible for stealing the data often asks for money to release the data.

“Ransomware is malicious software that encrypts a user’s data and makes it unusable,” explained FBI agent Justin Lee. “In order to get access to your data, we can provide the decryption key. But you’ll have to pay X amount in some cryptocurrency, most likely Bitcoin.”

But the FBI warns victims not to oblige because there’s no guarantee they’ll actually get their data back.

An employee of Beck’s Shoes told FOX40 that their company was hit about a week and a half ago by ransomware. Thanks to their tech support staff, they were up and running by the very next day.”

Sierra College was also hit last month, causing technical difficulties on the college website and other online systems.

Wednesday, they told FOX40 students and others would need to take added security steps.

“Most of our services are back up and registration for summer and fall classes is open.  All students, faculty, and staff will need to reset their passwords prior to accessing any online services through our site.”

So, how do the suspects gain access to computers in the first place?

“The most common way that I’ve seen is through spear phishing. And phishing emails,” Lee explained.

Sending malicious emails that contain links or data to download.

When you click those links or download the data the ransomware is stored to your computer. 

It then communicates with a server, receives instructions and encrypts the data on a person’s computer blocking them from accessing their information until they pay the ransom.

“All it takes is one click, sometimes,” Lee told FOX40.

Lee said you can protect yourselF against this, by not opening any suspicious emails.

“It’s really devastating when someone gets attacked and their data is encrypted,” he said. 

The FBI says the best protection against ransomware is to back up data and have a full working copy and offline backup of your data, which can be restored.

To report ransomware attacks and to learn more, click or tap here to visit the FBI Internet Crimes Complaint Center website.