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Orem company targeted by hackers, owners claim they spent thousands to fix the problem

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OREM, Utah- Owners of an Orem company reported hackers nearly destroyed their business with ransomware, and they’re still cleaning up the damage the hackers left behind. This attack has cost them thousands of dollars, and investigators weren’t able to help much.

Officials with Hot Start confirmed their data was hijacked on either May 31 or June 1.

Hot Start is a direct-mailing service that makes fliers advertising refinancing loans targeted for veterans. Owner Randy Young said when workers arrived on the Tuesday following Memorial Day, few of their computers would turn on and those that did displayed a ransom note.

Young said, “Yeah, I was extremely freaked out.”

Their databases reportedly took decades to compile, and Young said the information in them is extremely valuable.

“We were literally losing thousands and thousands of dollars an hour,” according to Young.

He says the ransom note instructed management to download a TOR browser then log onto a specific website and pay the hackers, then they would release the files. The note read, in part, that the hackers didn’t care about the company and that they were not going to be sympathetic.  It read: 

 

“If you will not cooperate with our service – for us, it does not matter. But you will lose your time and data, cause just we have the private key. In practice – time is much more valuable than money.”

 

In the end, the company found ways to get the data back, but it cost them thousands of dollars and took a lot of time.  Young said they know what their weakness was and they’re taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. However, he says local police weren’t equipped to handle this kind of investigation, and he hasn’t received much assistance from the FBI.

He said, “We were looking at 100 percent loss of everything.  In our business, the way this is set up, there was no way to recover it, just start over.”

Cyber security experts said the antidote to ransomware is having a strong backup system.

XMission President Pete Ashdown said, “Have not just one back-up, but a back-up that stretches back a year.”

According to Ashdown, 99 percent of all ransomware attacks happen due to human error, with employees clicking on links in their email boxes.

“Make sure everyone in your company is aware of the problem and aware of the consequences,” he said.  “Keep those back-ups and have good passwords.”