Hackers and Extortionists Strike Local Businesses

“It won’t happen to me,” are the first words many of us think when considering if we might get hacked. Many of us use anti-malware, anti-spyware, or anti-virus software on our computers and devices and have full confidence we are protected. The truth is, we may not be.

Companies throughout the area are prone to attack by some form of malicious software, virus, or malware. Some have already fallen victim to attack through something as simple as an attachment to an e-mail.

According to the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report and Consumer Reports the following home user statistics illustrate the impact of viruses on your average American.

1.  24 million households experience heavy spam.
2. 16 million households have experienced a serious virus problem in the past two years.
3. 8 million households have had spyware in the past 6 months.
4. 1 million households lost money or compromised accounts from misused phishing.
5. The estimated cost of all households impacted by viruses, spyware, and phishing is $4.55 billion.
6. 40% of all households are affected by computer viruses.
7. 32% of the world’s computers are infected with some type of malware.

Several companies in the area have fallen victim to hacking and ransomware. For example, two of them are Forest City Ford and KIOW.

Leslie Coffren with Forest City Ford explained that in their case, someone got a hold of a signature and a copy of the checks used by the company. Fake checks that looked almost identical to the ones used by Forest City Ford were then mailed out to people mostly in southern states.

 The company that was behind this got unsuspecting individuals to respond, they would then bombard them with e-mails describing how the company was trying to raise money for non-profit organizations. The unsuspecting individuals had to send money to the company behind this and in turn, the individuals would get a Forest City Ford check.

 

Fraud cases like these occur daily because of our dependency on the internet. Many of these individuals were looking for employment or a means to provide for their families.

Forest City Ford was victimized and caught in the middle as well. Checks that had been issued using their company name and stolen signature were being mailed out which the company did not authorize.

July 4th of this year was supposed to be a well-deserved four day weekend for employees at KIOW and KHAM. Owner and President Jim Coloff wanted to thank his employees for the hard work they had done with the recent 40th Anniversary celebrations, the highly successful Cancer Radiothon, Tree Town Music Festival, and other outstanding accomplishments in the first half of the year. While a skeleton crew would man the station during the holiday weekend, everyone was supposed to see a significant amount of time off.

That did not happen. Coloff explains.

Some employees began to work around the clock to clean out the affected computers then re-install programming, an extensive music library, ads, and other necessary programming items to return back to normal.

Other employees were called in to manually run the control room while still others were called in to make sure ads and programming were running correctly with appropriate dates and times.

 

Attacks like these bring up the concern of files being stolen from a business. According to Coloff, this did not happen with KIOW or KHAM.

 Companies that are hit with fraud and extortion issues like KIOW, KHAM, or Forest City Ford, now have to pay for correcting the problem through extensive amounts of manpower hours and other means says Forest City Ford’s Coffren.

 These examples are just two of what is becoming a significantly growing problem in north Iowa. Brian Blodgett, President of Next Generation Technologies in Lake Mills and Buffalo Center says area corporations, business owners, and people, in general, are continually coming to him with these problems.

 

The problems don’t end there according to Blodgett. Even more, schemes are being utilized to extort money out of unsuspecting north Iowa corporations, businesses, and individuals.

 

The problem then becomes who can you trust, especially when it comes to protecting your computer, or even more importantly, your business or yourself. Blodgett suggests that knowledge is power.

Having a local resource to provide protection and a local back up on computer memory can generate a tremendous piece of mind. However, one must always remain vigilant because the scammers will always try to find new ways to take your money and/or your files.