LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — State legislation to outlaw ransomware is drawing broad support from tech leaders and lawmakers, spurred by a series of recent attacks on hospitals in Southern California.

It was a ransomware attack that prompted Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center to pay a $17,000 ransom to regain control of its computer systems in February.

SB 1137, which was passed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee with a 7-0 vote last month, would outlaw the practice and make it the criminal equivalent of extortion. A person engaged in the activity could also be convicted of a felony and be sentenced to up to four years in jail, if the legislation passes.

The legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, is co-sponsored by L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and TechNet, a trade organization that advocates for technology companies.

“Ransomware attacks have become a major threat to all Internet users,” Hertzberg said in a statement. “This is essentially an electronic stickup, and we need to treat it with the same seriousness and severity we would treat any stickup.”

According to Hertzberg, ransomware attacks have skyrocketed in the past year and have become increasingly sophisticated.

In addition to extorting money from victims, hackers also use the ransomware to steal passwords and gain access to bank accounts or other private or sensitive information that can be used for identity theft.

The bill goes next to the Assembly Privacy & Consumer Protection Committee for consideration.

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