Local Business Suffers Cyber Attack

When you go into the office each morning, getting hacked is probably the last thing on your mind, but that’s exactly what happened to a small business in Tarbutt Township, just before closing for the Christmas holidays.

It was a regular Monday morning when Jennifer Baron, Office Manager at Karhi Contracting attempted to open a file on the system’s server and things immediately went south.

Just like that, the company’s data was inaccessible, a strange message appeared on the screen, and the business computers had been hacked. Jennifer quickly shut the system down and didn’t see what the hackers were demanding.

Roger LaPointe of Unique Data Systems in SSM was called in to help with the emergency situation. His business gets 2-3 calls each year from businesses that have been hacked and their data held for ransom.  Roger says, “It’s not personal. The hacking is done by robot driven websites in other countries.” The hackers don’t know you or your business, they just throw ransomware out there, and if your computer is selected, you can get attacked.

The most common way hackers get access to your system, is by someone clicking on an email link that is infected with ransomware. There are some basic things you can do to protect this from happening.

First, always use common sense. If you receive email from banks, agencies, or people asking you to click on something in an email, don’t do it. Roger says, “If you haven’t ordered a parcel, then don’t open that random email from a courier company.” Hackers are getting very good at recreating email to look like it is coming from a real business, but banks don’t ever ask for your password, account #  or personal information in an email.

Secondly, make sure that you’re diligent about doing regularly scheduled backups. This is what saved the day for Karhi Contracting. Roger says, “However, doing backups isn’t enough. You need to test those backups and make sure the data can be retrieved and restored on your system. Don’t assume it’s all good when you get the message- backup successful, test it to make sure it works.”

Something else to consider, is not being able to access your computers or backup in the office. Fire or natural disasters can also lead to lost data. An off-site backup, either in the cloud or another physical location, is a good idea. Roger gives the tragic example of the Algo Mall, “Those businesses never got in to recover their computers.”

It’s hard to think of something like this happening, but imagine a business trying to move forward without data, or even the time involved trying to recreate missing digital data from paper files, if they are available.   

Luckily, Karhi’s server had a good internal backup running twice a day, that had not yet been compromised when they shut it down. Unique Data Systems were able to wipe the computer system, change passwords, reset and restore almost all of their data. This is probably the best outcome for a business that gets hacked. It cost a bit of downtime, some short term stress, and less than $2000 to get up and running again.

Ed Karhi says, “It’s an awful feeling to realize that someone else has taken control of your information. WannaCry ransomware is aptly named, because that’s exactly how you feel when it happens to you.”

Ed hopes that people will take note of what happened to their small business, and take the opportunity to review their own cyber security. Karhi Contraccting will be doing more to protect themselves in 2018, including the purchase of a fire proof external back up for the office.