The dangers of ransomware can never be overstated. This is especially the case when an entire organization is brought to its knees as a result of a ransomware attack. In a rather severe case, at least in recent memory, a telemarketing company that operates in Arkansas is suffering severe consequences of poor security. According to a local ABC news affiliate in Sherwood, Ark., The Heritage Co. has had to shut its business down as a result of not properly handling the situation following ransomware infection.
KATV reports that The Heritage Co. has roughly 300 employees who are now possibly unemployed. Many of the employees have been forced to register with their local unemployment office. While CEO Sandra Franecke wrote in a letter that this will hopefully be a temporary closure, employees of The Heritage Co. are in limbo until Jan. 2. According to the KATV report, employees will have to call in and see at that time if their job will be returned to them. Many employees are not speaking with the media in fear of company retaliation.
The letter written The Heritage Co.’s shows just how poorly the situation with the ransomware infection was handled. Select excerpts below prove this:
Unfortunately, approximately two months ago our Heritage servers were attacked by malicious software that basically “held us hostage for ransom” and we were forced to pay the crooks to get the “key” just to get our systems back up and running. Since then, IT has been doing everything they can to bring all our systems back up, but they still have quite a long way to go… We started the Prizes and Bingo the first of November when again I was being told the systems would be fixed that week.”
If The Heritage Co. had a better contingency plan for ransomware infection, they would never be in this position. Their IT team clearly dropped the ball, as the last possible thing one should do is pay the ransom in this incident. Additionally, their bad advice led the CEO to falsely believe that the ransomware would be purged in a timely fashion.
After a severe amount of losses, it is clear that the company was never equipped to handle this sort of incredibly common attack. A more prudent course of action would have been to immediately involve third-party teams that specialize in securing breached networks. This includes private cybersecurity firms as well as law enforcement agencies like the FBI.
While this is a small local story in Arkansas, it illustrates the universal dangers of not taking ransomware threats seriously. If anything, the 300 employees out of a job at The Heritage Co. should not be in this situation. If anyone should lose their job it should be upper management for not implementing better security protocols, and additionally, it should also be the IT team that was clearly way over their heads and misleading the CEO about their prowess.
Ransomware is not going away anytime soon, so companies should take this incident as a tale of caution. If they don’t institute better security practices, such as updating legacy systems and engaging in up-to-date training, they too could be shuttering their businesses.