Connecticut companies targeted as cyber thieves hold files hostage


MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) — It was beyond what Rich Shemanskis had ever seen.

“You see files start to change. The actual names of the files start to change,” said Shemanskis.

Empire Industries has been producing piping products in Connecticut for 75 years.

A medium sized company, he didn’t think it would be a prime target for a cyber attack.

“What could be going on? I wasn’t sure if it was a virus. I’ve never been exposed to ransom-ware before…if that’s what it was,” said Shemanskis.

Ransom-ware is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files.

The crooks make the company pay to get their files back.

“You’ve got a business that’s essentially shutting down,” said Shemanskis.

He called in Jon Stone, a cyber-security expert with Kelser Corporation.

Stone has been seeing more and more attacks on companies in Connecticut.

“Small and medium sized companies are looked at as especially good targets because they may not have adequate protection in place,” said Stone.

Business is locked up, until the hackers get what they want.

“Could be when you open a file you get a message saying send five-hundred dollars in bitcoin to this address and we’ll send you a key to unlock your files,” said Stone.

Stone has seen several companies pay and often not get all their files back.

Empire Industries was fortunate, they took the right steps to prevent a deep and devastating attack.

“I made sure the machines were off, I actually disconnected each and every one of them from the network,” said Shemanskis.

The company had good backups and called in experts quickly.

“This is really about planning and prevention. The “after the response” attack can be messy to clean up,” said Stone.

The attack often begins with an employee opening an email.

Cyber thieves are becoming more savvy…preying on people’s emotions to click on that hidden Trojan horse.

“Hackers prey to people’s interest’s that seem a little juicy – like the payroll file that gets randomly sent to someone,” said Stone.

The allure of details like finding out what co-workers make.

Or emails of urgency, all made up as a gateway to a cyber-attack.

“Impersonating a boss or a supervisor saying hey I need you open this file,” said Stone.

Awareness and action taken while everything is good is key, so that you and your co-workers don’t have a very bad day, at the hands of hackers.

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