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Industry supplier held to ransom by hackers

Wednesday, 29 July 2015
By Patrick Howard

A prominent industry equipment supplier in Sydney is the latest victim of an internet scourge with his entire computer system locked up by hackers demanding money.

The so-called ‘ransomware’ targeting encrypts all the data files on the system with the hackers forcing the victim to pay for decryption. The demands escalate rapidly with the amount doubling within hours.

The attack locked up the supplier’s files, including accounts, sales and all history, rendering the business effectively blind.  The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, strongly resisted the demands and set about installing an entirely new system from the bottom up. One Mac laptop was the only computer to avoid the ‘ransomware’ bug.

“At first I couldn’t believe it, I though it was a glitch, but the message on the screens was true enough. They were demanding I pay them to decrypt my files,” he said.

“I contacted the police and they told me it’s a major problem and can strike anyone, anytime.”

In looking round for alternatives he found that even if he hosted his files in the cloud they would still be vulnerable to attack. “It seems there is very little you can do except make sure you have offsite backup and don’t open any suspicious email,” he said.

The ransomware arrives in the form of an  innocuous email, the latest round featuring messages from Australia Post and the Australian Federal Police. The supplier’s account person unwittingly clicked on the Australia Post accounts file and unleashed the bug throughout the entire system.

According to the ACSC (Australian Cyber Security Centre) , the attackers offer no assurance that they will release the files on payment of the ransom. Like blackmailers everywhere they will continue to milk anyone foolish enough to pay them money. Victims are strongly advised not to play along.

“I don’t know how much it’s cost me. But it’s a set-back to my business, no doubt about it,” said the supplier.



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