CYBER CRIME: Hampshire farm hit by ransomware attack lost records

A FARMER who lost 15 years of business records and precious family photographs has told how he was hacked through a fake CV.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 28th July 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:49 am

Running 30 acres, Jim Parker, 54, relied heavily on computers to keep records for his farm, home rental business, and for the sale of miniature donkeys.

So when a job application came in via email he thought nothing of opening it, and clicking on a link purporting to be the applicant’s CV.

But within minutes he was staring at a completely unusable computer, with his family and business files locked by ransomware forever.

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Hackers demanded Jim, who breeds donkeys at his farm in Durley, near Bishop’s Waltham, pay out £500 but he refused.

Nothing could be done to recover the files, but Jim has kept the hard drive from the machine in the hope the ransomware can be cracked in the future.

He said: ‘It was absolutely gutting. Why do they do it? It’s not until you can’t get that document or that 
document you keep going out your mind.

‘It wasn’t loads and loads of money.

‘They sent the CV when we were advertising. They must have known or have looked at them to know when we were advertising.

‘They could’ve been anywhere in the world.

‘We could’ve sent them the money and still never get the documents back.’

Despite the attack, Jim said it had not ruined his business as he kept hard copies of vital documents, including tenancy agreements.

The software did not infect a separate protected machine linked to social services and Jim’s day centre for adults with learning difficulties.

Jim, who runs Meadow View Miniature Donkey Stud with his wife Jeanette, reported it to Hampshire police.

Officers from the force’s Cyber Protect unit visited them and 
gave advice but no-one has been caught.

Jim added: ‘The manager was dealing with job applications, I still get all the emails and looked through it.

‘We had a job advertised, a job application, forms and people’s CVs come in. This one came up. It seemed okay to myself. I thought I’d have a look.

‘It said “click here to open CV”.

‘It said “hi there, I’m the person you want” and that’s the last I saw of my computer.

‘Nothing happened straight away but then it all locked up.

‘Then when I went to click other files and they wouldn’t open.’

Jim restarted his PC but that made no change, with a pop-up demanding payment to unlock the files. Precious photos were lost, including of his two sons, now aged 19 and 25.

He asked around for help in unlocking the files but nothing could be done to unlock the ransomware.

‘It was the home computer that we use, there were photographs of family from years ago,’ he said.

‘We lost absolutely everything.’

He added: ‘I spoke to someone and he said the best thing to do is take the hard drive out and wait until you can crack it in a few years time.

‘I’ve also got a business with a special-needs day centre, a rental property business – we had all the tenancy agreements, every single thing lost.’

Hampshire police have warned against paying any ransom.

Fake invoices cost construction companies £32,000

TWO firms fell victim to an online fraud totalling tens of thousands of pounds, a court heard.

The £32,000 loss came to light in court as a money launderer was sentenced for her role in handling the cash. Construction firms received fake invoices, which police believe could have been done after criminals accessed details online.

Hayley Jones had used her bank account to receive the funds.

Prosecutor Roderick Blain said: ‘These three offences arose from a fraud that was perpetrated against businesses in the construction industry, Bovis Homes and Partner Construction.

‘They were due to pay money to other companies involved, Loftus Construction.

‘Shortly before they were due to make payments they received emails that appeared on the face of it came from Loftus Construction. Those emails said that Loftus Construction was having problems with a bank account and they would provide an alternative account for Bovis and Partner to pay the money due.

‘Those details were provided for an account held by the defendant, and in the defendant’s name.

‘Bovis made two payments, January 19, 2051 and one on January 29, 2015. They came to the total of £33,498.

‘Partner Construction made one payment that was on February 16, £2,378.’

‘The fraud was discovered when Partner Construction received another email, purportedly coming from representatives of Loftus Construction trying to get payments made to another bank account that caused them to be suspicious.

Police analysed Jones’s bank statements and found the payments, with cash transferred on to another account.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Jones, 33, of Maple Crescent, Clanfield, was arrested at Gatwick Airport in February this year after visiting family and working in Australia for 18 months.

She admitted withdrawing £4,000 from her account and handing it to a man she met, who then gave her £1,000 back.

The rest of the cash was sent to other accounts, with Jones keeping £6,000 in her savings account.

Jones has no previous convictions and said she was introduced to the man she gave the money by a friend.

Judge Sarah Munro QC sentenced her to a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years with 200 hours of unpaid work. ‘Without people like you who are prepared to use their bank accounts, this fraud wouldn’t work,’ she said.

Jones admitted three charges of converting criminal property – money laundering offences.

People must know what to look out for

STAFF pose the biggest risk at firms worried for cybercrime, an IT expert said.

Nigel Taylor, managing director of Portchester firm Taylor Made Computer Solutions, said eliminating human error is hugely important.

He said: ‘From what we’ve seen in our work across the south it’s ultimately human error that makes businesses fall victim to cybercrime. Employees are at the front of the battlefield so they can be a company’s biggest threat.

‘CEOs and IT managers are ultimately in the hands of their staff to halt these attacks at the front line. By ensuring employees, from the reception desk to the boardroom, know exactly what to look out for can potentially save millions.’

Computer-fixing scams increasing

FRAUDSTERS online are ripping people off for thousands.

Data obtained via freedom of information laws by Which? found an increase in computer-fixing fraud in Hampshire, where scammers pose as technicians on the phone offering to sort out IT problems.

Figures show an increase from 714 in 2014 to 787 the next year and 845 in 2016. Online shopping and auction fraud has dropped by 352 from 1,338 in 2014 to 986 in 2016. Dating scams have decreased from 94 in 2014 to 87.

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, said: ‘Government must now, as a priority, set out an ambitious agenda to tackle fraud of all kinds.’