Hackers hit national meat wholesaler

2015-12-08 12:13
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Pietermaritzburg - A national meat wholesaler with operations in Pietermaritzburg was held to digital ransom by an unknown hacker last week.

Chester Group, which began in Durban over 30 years ago and now has a combined turnover of R1,3 billion per annum, had its network hijacked by a virus known as Ransomware last Wednesday after a senior manager opened an e-mailed file he believed to be an invoice.

IT manager Gervais Alleaume said the virus began encrypting all files on the network while a pop-up screen demanded $500 (R7 300) for the business to be given back access to its files.

“The e-mail said November Invoice and went to the financial director. He clicked on it but the file kept prompting him to click on the file over and over again. That is when he got suspicious. That was at 4.30 pm. By 5.30 pm it had encrypted every file on his laptop and by 6.15 pm the virus was encrypting the main network. What this meant is that operational programs that needed certain files to operate could not work because the encryption hid the files,” said Alleaume.

He said fortunately they had backups, which are done hourly and were able to rectify the problem the following day. “We didn’t even consider paying the money. We eventually asked anti-virus provider Symantec based in the USA to help. They accessed our system and helped us discover the source e-mail. We had to restore from the back-up twice, the first time being unsuccessful. It certainly hampered our operations but the virus could not stop us from working,” said Alleaume.

Software developer Taylor Gibb said anyone with a software background could develop malware. “You get different types of hackers; the white hats, the grey hats and the black hats. The white hats hack to test systems and fix them, the grey guys work in the good and bad space and the black hats develop malware,” he said, adding software giants all have teams that try to unbundle malicious viruses in a hope to better understand them.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hacking

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